Japan to restart football without spectators on July 4

TOKYO (AFP) – Professional football games in Japan will resume in early July without spectators in stadiums after a four-month suspension due to the coronavirus outbreak, the J-League said on Friday.

“We have decided to resume games on July 4” for the first division, League Chairman Mitsuru Murai announced online.

“Making a start on July 4 means it is too early to invite spectators,” he said. Lower divisions will resume games in late June.

Football is the second major professional sport in Japan to announce a return to action after a break forced by the pandemic, following the baseball league’s announcement it would return to play in June.

J-League first-division Cerezo Osaka player Yoichiro Kakitani said “worries have not been completely cleared… but it will be best that all teams in the J-League work together and face off with mutual respect.”

The J-League kicked off the season for one weekend in February before suspending it.

Following the government announcement on Monday that it will lift a nationwide state of emergency, Japan’s professional baseball league announced it would start its coronavirus-delayed season on June 19 but without spectators.