Melbourne's Rojas puts coronavirus concerns aside for Asian Champions League

Michael Church
·3-min read

By Michael Church

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Melbourne Victory’s Marcos Rojas has said he will put worries about the COVID-19 pandemic to one side and focus on their Asian Champions League campaign as they prepare to fly out to Qatar for the resumption of the continental club championship.

Melbourne are among three Australian clubs playing in the competition as it returns in Doha in a centralised format after being suspended earlier this year over due to the coronavirus.

The Grant Brebner-coached Melbourne squad were due to depart on Thursday and New Zealand midfielder Rojas acknowledged having some worries ahead of the journey to the Middle East.

“I’m feeling like everyone else is, a bit apprehensive about the travel and all of that but excited about the Champions League and excited to play some good football games,” he said.

“(The situation’s) forever changing isn’t it?

“You saw here in Australia what happened and we’re now travelling overseas and it’s obviously in the background, but we’ve spoken about it as much as we can and we have all the information that we can possibly have at this stage.

“We’re going over there knowing that we’re being well cared for and well looked after.”

Australia has recorded just over 27,700 new coronavirus infections and 907 COVID-19 deaths after an impressive early response and strict measures that included sending Melbourne, the country's second-largest city, into months-long lockdown.

MATCHES RESUME

Games in the Asian Champions League resumed on Wednesday with Shanghai Shenhua beating Perth Glory but Melbourne do not return to competitive play until Tuesday due to having already played twice in Group E before the shut down.

Social media showed clubs from China travelling to Qatar in full personal protective equipment, while health authorities in the Gulf state have tightened regulations after a COVID-19 outbreak hit the competition when teams from West Asia played their matches in September and October.

A cluster of infections meant holders Al Hilal were unable to complete their fixtures after infections left the Saudi Arabia champions with 11 fit players, two of them goalkeepers.

Asked about seeing players in protective suits, Rojas said: “(There’s) an understanding that that’s exactly the situation that it is.

“We’re all feeling the same, all the teams from whichever country you’re coming from and we’ll take the precautions we think are necessary to proceed to do what we feel we need to do.”

Melbourne’s opener against Chinese Super League side Beijing Guoan will be the first competitive match the club have played since their involvement in the A-League playoffs came to an end against Western Sydney Wanderers in the middle of August.

“It will be really nice,” said Rojas of a return to action. “It’s a different take on the pre-season hit outs. Some very good competitive games and we’re really looking forward to testing ourselves... against some top teams.”

(Reporting by Michael Church, Editing by Ken Ferris)