Turkmenistan football season restarts with crowds

ASHGABAT, TURKMENISTAN (AFP) – Turkmenistan rebooted its domestic football season on Sunday, with fans returning to stadiums in one of the few countries yet to declare a case of coronavirus.

Around 300 people attended a top-of-the table clash between last season’s champions Altyn Asyr and league leaders Kopetdag in a 20,000-capacity stadium in the capital Ashgabat.

The two teams played out an attritional 1-1 draw with both goals coming in the second half.Like several other fans interviewed by AFP, none of whom wore masks, Murad, a 60-year-old Kopetdag fan, said he had no fear of the coronavirus pandemic and planned to continue attending games.

“Sport kills all viruses,” he joked. “When your favourite team win, it lifts your immunity!”

He hoped his team could stay the pace at the top of the division.

Football supporters attend the Turkmenistan national football championship match between Altyn Asyr and Kopetdag. PHOTO: AFP

“This club is a legendary club,” Murad said.

The authoritarian Central Asian state followed other countries when it suspended its eight-team league in March just three games into the season.

The national football federation cited recommendations by the Health Ministry and the World Health Organization for preventing the spread of the illness.

But a month later, football made a return to the gas-rich country.

“We have no coronavirus, so why not restart our league?” said Yashir Yusupov.