Japanese pro football returns after 4-month suspension

Jun 28 ,2020. 16 hours ago – 20:50 KYODO NEWS

TOKYO – The J-League’s second and third divisions kicked off Saturday after a four-month break brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.

The J2 resumed play from the second round of its season, while the J3 belatedly held its opening day originally scheduled for March 7.

With fans locked out to prevent the spread of the pneumonia-causing virus, Blaublitz Akita opened their J3 campaign with a 4-0 victory over Iwate Grulla Morioka at an empty Iwagin Stadium.

The Tohoku Derby between Akita and Morioka is one of several fixtures featuring clubs from the same region early in the revised season to reduce travel as a further precaution.

Akita forward Keita Saito, who netted twice in a man-of-the-match performance, thanked fans for voicing their support despite being unable to attend.

“We’ve received their encouragement and will do our best to keep winning,” Saito said.

All games will be played behind closed doors until the league gradually begins readmitting fans from July 10.

All players will undergo polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, tests every two weeks during the shortened season, which runs until Dec. 19.

The J1 will also pick up its season from round two when it resumes next weekend.

The J-League suspended all three tiers, along with cup competitions, on Feb. 26, shortly before a sharp rise in coronavirus infections across Japan.

Due to difficulty securing venues, FC Tokyo has withdrawn its under-23 side from the J3, reducing the division from 19 to 18 teams.

CR: KYODO NEWS