JEDDAH: All sports events in Saudi Arabia have been halted because of the coronavirus outbreak.
The Ministry of Sports said the suspension includes the Mohammed bin Salman Football League and the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Cup playoffs.
The ministry said the suspension — which is part of the national safety measures — would go into effect on Sunday until further notice.
Events around the country have been affected by the spreading coronavirus. The Arab Club Champions Club semifinal round on Sunday in Riyadh has been called off.
Notable sports figures spoke to Arab News about their thoughts on the shutdown.
Ahmed Al-Sabban, president of the Saudi Arabian Fencing Federation, told Arab News that despite rejections he faced, his federation was the first in the Kingdom to take the action of suspending all activities when the virus first started to spread.
“I was concerned about the safety of my young players. Many of our board members asked me to wait but I insisted to go ahead. In order to keep my players in good shape, I sent coaches to the players’ home for private training.”
Reacting to the latest ministry decision to suspend sports temporarily, he said: “I was very happy to hear the action of the ministry because of the well-being of fans, players and staff. Everyone must come first during this situation.”
Ahmed Al-Rashid, chairman of the Competitions Committee at the Saudi Football League, said: “In this unprecedented situation, we are working closely with our clubs, the government and the officials of both the league and the cup. We can reassure everyone the health and welfare of players, staff and supporters are our priority.”
Fans of all teams were quick to respond to the news. Abdulkhaliq Al-Zahrani, an Al-Hilal Football Club supporter said: “Though this suspension will affect our team’s performance as they are at the top of the table, we understand that the main concern of the government is the safety of players.”
Hamid Attas, a fan of Al-Ahli Football club, said: “This is the right decision. Nobody wants football canceled, we lose part of our lives and routines. But this could make a difference to thousands of people in the sports industry. Safety will always be the priority of our government.” Former and current football players gave their views on social media.
Nawaf Al-Timiat, former midfielder for the Saudi National team and Al-Hilal, posted a message to his supporters on Twitter: “We know what football means for all but understanding the suspension of their season to assess the impact of coronavirus was the right course of action by the government.”
Fahd Al-Merdasi, former international football referee, said: “It is a wise decision by our government. Ultimately, the health and the well-being of everyone is what led the ministry to issue this decision. It will impact football performance, but health is more important.”