PRAGUE: The top Czech soccer league prepared to resume on Saturday night after a two-month break due to the new coronavirus pandemic, with Teplice to host Slovan Liberec in a match that will include pre-kickoff temperature checks and other protective measures.
The re-start will make the Czech league one of the first in Europe to take to the pitch again, following the Bundesliga in neighboring Germany which began matches on May 16.
The match will be played without spectators, as only 150 people are allowed at the stadium, and players will not shake hands before kick-off or come onto the pitch at the same time. All those in the stadium except for the players and referees will have to wear masks.
Teams stopped collective training sessions in mid-March as the country all but ground to a halt with strict rules and limits imposed on services and public life, including border closures, to limit the spread of the virus.
Before league matches could re-start, all 16 top-tier teams had to test their players and staff for COVID-19 and agree to protective measures that included having players stay in single rooms when travelling to away matches.
In order to finish the season in mid-July, teams will play twice weekly but will be allowed five substitutes during matches. Public health officers will monitor matches and any individual who tests positive for COVID-19 will be quarantined.
The league has voted not to crown a champion or relegate a team if the season is not completed.
(Reporting by Robert Muller; Editing by Michael Kahn and Hugh Lawson)