‘You can play, but don’t talk to each other’

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South Korea’s K-League is set to return on May 8 and a number of strict measures have been put in place in order to contain the spread of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.

Players have been told that there will be no pre-match handshakes while they have also been warned that they cannot speak to one another during the course of a game.

Coaches are also to wear face masks at all times during games.

The league was suspended when South Korea went into lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic, and players have recently returned to training and started playing practice games this week.

Players, coaches and fans have two weeks to get used to new rules around football in South Korea after the K-League announced on Friday that the delayed season will kick off on May 8.

Jeonbuk Motors will take on Suwon Bluewings in the opening game, which was originally scheduled for February 29.

Incheon United captain Kim Do-hyeok has expressed that not being able to communicate with his team-mates will pose difficulties for his side.

‘Things like not spitting during the game, we can do no problem but not talking to team-mates is impossible,’ he said after a practice game.

‘If we can’t have conversations on the field, we may as well not play at all.’

Restrictions are gradually being lifted and new daily cases of the coronavirus have dropped to single digits this week in South Korea after peaking in February, but not enough to allow fans to attend games at the start of the season.

Kim is hoping spectators will soon be back in the stadiums cheering on the 10 teams in Asia’s oldest professional league.

‘It would be great to play in front of fans, but if we all play our part in stopping the spread of the virus then they will soon be back in their seats,’ Kim said.

Coaches are having to adapt, too. Suwon coach Kim Do-gyun had issues trying to communicate with his players while wearing a mask.

‘It’s true that it is uncomfortable when you are trying to give instructions during the game,’ Kim said. ‘At the moment, however, these are things that you have to do.’

There have been more than 10,700 cases of COVID-19 in South Korea, and 240 deaths according to a tally compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

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