Colombia soccer match suspended as players, coaches give positive coronavirus tests

BOGOTA, Sept 18 (Reuters) - A match planned to kick off Colombia’s soccer league has been postponed after seven players and six of the coaching staff of one of the teams tested positive for coronavirus, Colombia’s football association said on Friday.

Players and coaching staff from football club Tolima, which leads the Colombian league with 16 points from eight matches, tested positive for the virus. The team had already arrived in Medellin to compete against rival team Nacional at the Atanasio Girardot stadium on Friday night.

“This is not the best way to start the league,” the president of Colombia’s football association (DIMAYOR), Fernando Jaramillo, said in a virtual press conference.

While those players and members of the technical team who tested positive did not travel to Medellin, the Ministry of Health raised concerns other soccer players and people from Tolima could have been infected, despite testing negative for coronavirus.

“We knew this could happen but despite this, we are going to move forward,” Jaramillo said. “The priority is the health of everyone who is involved in the league, which is why we decided to postpone this match.”

The Colombian soccer championship, which was suspended in March, will be played behind closed doors and without fans present, in a bid to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Almost 744,000 have been infected with the novel coronavirus in the Andean country, while more than 23,000 have died.

Other matches planned for this weekend will continue as planned, Jaramillo said.

Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; Writing by Oliver Griffin; Editing by Daniel Wallis