Wuhan soccer team returning to China after a month and a half due to coronavirus outbreak

Wuhan Zall FC is expected to return to China on Saturday. (Photo by H.Bilbao/Europa Press via Getty Images)

After a month and a half away from China due to the coronavirus pandemic, Wuhan Zall FC is expected to finally return to China on Saturday.

Wuhan was the epicenter for the coronavirus outbreak earlier this year, and its Chinese Super League side has been away from the city for over 60 days. Wuhan Zall traveled to Guangzhou for preseason training in January, and arrived in Costa del Sol, Spain, on Jan. 29 for more preseason preparations.

According to the Associated Press, the team initially extended its stay from mid-February to the end of March, but with the coronavirus spreading rapidly throughout Spain and the rest of Europe this week, that plan changed.

The New York Times’ Tariq Panja profiled Wuhan Zall’s situation, detailing how the players have filled the time by training on manicured fields, sightseeing and even attending the Real Madrid-Barcelona match on March 1 as invited guests.

They’ve also leaned on manager José González, a Spaniard hired in January. He was especially helpful, Panja writes, when teams from Scandinavia and Russia canceled preseason games vs. Wuhan after the outbreak. It was hard for Wuhan Zall to not take it personally.

“It’s like saying you come from a town, and the town is called Ebola,” team official You Li told the New York Times.

As of this writing, there have been 5,232 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Spain, with 133 deaths and 193 recoveries. The United States has seen 2,112 confirmed cases and 47 deaths thus far.

The number of new cases in China, however, has dwindled. China has begun easing up on lockdown measures in its hardest-hit region, which includes Wuhan.

“Things are well over there (in China) now,” González told the AP. “The Chinese league will likely start at the beginning of May. We will have to enter quarantine when we arrive, so the sooner we leave, the better.”

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