Coronavirus outlier Tajikistan suspends domestic football

One of the few football leagues in the world still playing will be suspended next week after authorities in Tajikistan ruled to temporarily ban sports events over coronavirus concerns. The Tajik football federation said that domestic league matches would go ahead on Sunday before a suspension until at least May 10. The federation “completely supports” the government’s decision to halt sporting events, it said in a statement Saturday.

Tajikistan’s authoritarian government insists there are no coronavirus cases in the country, despite reports of several suspicious deaths. Authorities on Saturday also ruled to shutter schools for two weeks and block grain exports.

Tajikistan’s football season began on April 4 after leagues the world over stopped, with matches being played in empty stadiums. Another Central Asian country that has yet to record any COVID-19 cases, Turkmenistan, restarted its league with fans in attendance on April 19 after a hiatus enforced as a precaution against the virus in late March.

The league in ex-Soviet Belarus has also continued despite 67 COVID-19 deaths in the country, attracting a new soccer-starved global fan base, despite dwindling local spectators.

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