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Saudi soccer to resume this summer

Matches will resume with health measures in place, after they had stopped in March due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Football players enter the pitch as the stands are seen empty after the decision of the Saudi Ministry of Sports, following an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), during the Saudi Professional League soccer match between AL-Hilal and Al-Ettifaq at King Saud University Stadium, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia March 7, 2020. Picture taken March 7, 2020. REUTERS/Ahmed Yosri - RC2MFF9J8T68

The Saudi Football Federation plans to resume the soccer season this summer after a break due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Practices for the matches will begin June 21. Games will then resume Aug. 4, according to a release from the federation. The resumption follows a decision by the Saudi Sports Ministry to allow sports to start again, the state-run Saudi Press Agency reported. 

Soccer stopped in Saudi Arabia in March when the government put into place strict restrictions to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. Since then, authorities have gone back and forth between easing and reimposing virus mitigation measures. After easing restrictions in May, the government reimposed strict curfews in some areas this month following a spike in cases.

The federation said that it would comply with the government’s “medical protocols and strict precautionary measures” when resuming play. Gatherings of more than 50 people are currently banned in the kingdom. Other countries in the region such as Israel have resumed soccer without fans. 

The Saudi Press Agency did not mention other sports in its report. 

The only countries to register more COVID-19 cases in the Middle East are Iran and Turkey; Saudi Arabia has registered 119,942 cases. The situation is troublesome enough that Saudi authorities are reportedly considering canceling the hajj Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca this year. It would be first time the important religious mass gathering has been canceled in Saudi history. 

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