Organisers of Sweden’s annual Gothia Cup, regarded as the world’s largest youth football tournament, say this summer’s championship will go ahead as planned unless they are instructed to cancel the competition due to the global coronavirus crisis.
Every summer around 1,700 youth football teams from more than 80 countries travel to Gothenburg, Sweden’s second largest city, to compete in the tournament. Last year, 13 teams from the UAE travelled.
More than million youth players from close to 150 countries have taken part in the competition since it was first staged in 1975. Xabi Alonso and Andrea Pirlo, Fifa World Cup winners with Spain and Italy respectively during their professional careers, both played in the Gothia Cup when they were coming through the ranks.
This year's Gothia Cup is due to kick off on July 13, although many countries around the world currently have restriction of movement orders in place or have imposed lockdowns and travel bans after Covid-19 cases have been identified in 194 nations.
Many of the visiting teams stay in Gothenburg's schools, which are converted into temporary accommodation for the duration of the tournament, where players from all over the world mix and socialise when not playing matches at the city's many sporting venues.
Tove Svensson, Gothia Cup's tournament secretary, said in a statement sent to The National, that currently "there are no directions from the authorities – neither the World Health Organisation, European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control nor the Swedish Public Health Agency – that Gothia Cup needs to take any [further] measures because of the coronavirus outbreak.
“The preparations of Gothia Cup 2020 continue as planned as there is no need for radical decisions nor any speculation at this stage.”
Ms Svensson added that the competition's organisers had “a deep understanding of how our participants are affected by the coronavirus outbreak and that it awakens a lot of questions regarding our tournament.”
She said: “We are working according to the contingency plan our organisation has for this type of situation. As always, Gothia Cup puts people’s health first.”
Earlier this week, the elite level UEFA Champions League and Europa League finals were postponed with no decision taken on rescheduling and most European football leagues have no idea when the 2019-20 season will resume. Last week, UEFA also postponed the Euro 2020 championship. This summer's Tokyo Olympics were put back to 2021 earlier today.
More than 380,000 cases of Covid-19 have been diagnosed worldwide and more than 16,500 people have died since the global pandemic began. In Sweden, more than 2,000 cases have so far been identified.