Where has coronavirus left Asian football?

The AFC Champions League season was impacted early with play in China having already been suspended. AFP

What promised to be a year filled with major events such as the Olympic Games, FIFA World Cup qualifiers and the AFF Suzuki Cup -- a perennial favourite in Southeast Asia -- has now been turned on its head due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. As is the case virtually all over the world, football in Asia is currently at a standstill and the first signs of the havoc to come appeared earlier than in other places.

AFC Champions League

When the group stage of the AFC Champions League -- the continent's premier club competition -- kicked off in February, the Chinese Super League's four representatives had their matches postponed due to concerns over the safety of China hosting the events. Travel restrictions then prevented those matches from being switched to "away" games.

Iran and South Korea were hit next and more fixtures were postponed. By Match Day 3, just two of 16 games were played. This has resulted in some lopsided standings -- especially in the East Zone's Group G and H, with Guangzhou Evergrande and Shanghai SIPG yet to begin their campaigns while their three group rivals already having played twice.

Even before the season was temporarily stopped, the schedule already had the Chinese teams catching up on their rescheduled matches after the end of the group stage, originally planned for the first week of May. This would have given them an unfair advantage as they would have entered those matches knowing what they had to do to seal qualification.

After the club competitions -- both the ACL and the second-tier AFC Cup -- were suspended, it was only a matter of time before the joint qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup and 2023 AFC Asian Cup, initially scheduled for the end of March, were also postponed.

With two sets of games originally scheduled for March and another two in May, the second round of qualifying was supposed to be concluded by June 9 with the next stage to kick off in September.

Given limited windows are reserved for international football throughout the year, FIFA and AFC are now faced with the task of inserting these matches into an already-busy calendar. They will have to balance the schedule against the health and fitness of players by ensuring not too many games are played in too short a time.

Regional cups

In a region where bragging rights remain coveted currency, the ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) competitions have also taken quite a hit.

Last played in 2005, the ASEAN Club Championship was initially scheduled to return this year but has since been pushed back to 2021 -- prolonging what has already been a 15-year wait to reignite regional club rivalry.

The Suzuki Cup -- a competition of national teams and anticipated eagerly by Southeast Asian fans every two years -- is still going ahead from November 23 to December 31. But the timing will depend on the pandemic abating; especially given the amount of travel it would involve.

Even if it does go ahead, it raises doubts over whether the quality of this edition would be affected given players could either head into tournament either underdone or overcooked depending on how much football will be played over the coming months.

Domestic leagues

Most Southeast Asian countries managed to squeeze in some games before postponing. Myanmar's National League started play in January and actually completed over a third of their season.

Japan's top-tier J1 League made the decision not to relegate any teams this year while two will still be promoted from J2. That means 20 teams will now compete in 2021 with four sides then facing the drop.

In Australia, the suspension of the A-League at the end of their season raises doubts over who their representatives will be in next year's ACL, especially if the full season is not completed.

The Chinese Super League is reportedly nearing resumption. Still, former Premier League midfielder and current Shandong Luneng star Marouane Fellaini recently tested positive for the coronavirus.