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 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.
The virus has killed hundreds of thousands, infected millions and decimated the annual sporting calendar internationally.
It forced a one-year delay of the summer Tokyo Olympics, and suspended everything from in Japan from sumo to the summer high-school baseball tournament—an enormously popular event that annually receives wall-to-wall live television coverage.