South Africa will not send its Olympic football team to Japan to play a friendly in March because of concerns over the coronavirus outbreak. The two teams were due to play in Sanga on 27 March, four months before the start of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. There have been 85 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Japan and one death, according to the World Health Organization as of 20 February. South African Football Association’s (SAFA) acting chief executive Gay Mokoena said the Japan Football Association had been trying to change his mind over the decision.
“Japan is asking us to reconsider our decision, but we are sticking to our guns. We have to act in the best interest of our players,” said Mokoena. “We can’t put the lives of our players at risk. The death toll is rising each day and we are not prepared to take a big risk”. Ivory Coast are also scheduled to travel to Japan for a friendly on 30 March. The Olympics are due to begin on 24 July with six cities set to host football matches during the Games. Both South Africa and Ivory Coast have already qualified for the men’s tournament. But 2020 Olympic Games chief Toshiro Muto has previously said cancelling or postponing the Olympics “has not been considered”.