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Coronavirus: 'Most' Bosnia players would be ruled out of Euro 2020 play-off against Northern Ireland, claims FA after requesting postponement


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Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill and captain Steven Davis were last in Bosnia in 2018.

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill and captain Steven Davis were last in Bosnia in 2018.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill and captain Steven Davis were last in Bosnia in 2018.

The Football Association of Bosnia and Herzegovina has claimed most of their players would not be able to feature in the UEFA Euro 2020 play-off semi-final against Northern Ireland should the fixture go ahead as scheduled.

The association has written to UEFA to request the postponement of the match, which is due to take place in Zenica on March 26.

Similarly, the Slovakian FA has also asked for the postponement of their semi-final at home to the Republic of Ireland, with the winners of the two ties having been set to meet on March 31.

The ball is now firmly in UEFA's court over what happens next for both fixtures, although the Bosnian FA has explained its request in relation to sanction imposed by the country's government.

European football's governing body has announced that it will hold a meeting of all football stakeholders, including the 55 member assocaitions, to discuss the response to the outbreak, including all club competitions and Euro 2020. The video conference will take place on Tuesday, March 17, with UEFA to add further comment afterwards.

Bosnia and Herzegovinian nationals returning to the country from Italy, Germany, France, Spain, Iran, Korea and China must be placed in a mandatory quarantine for 14 days.

Of the 29-man panel Bosnia and Herzegovinia named for the play-offs earlier this week, eight are currently playing for clubs in the countries listed for mandatory quarantine.

Star striker Edin Dzeko, key midfielder Miralem Pjanic, goalkeeper Asmir Begovic and defender Ervin Zukanovic are all currently playing their club football in Italy, while defensive trio Ermin Bicakcic, Marko Mihojevic and Darko Todorovic play in Germany and forward Haris Duljevic is currently at French side Nimes Olympique.

"Among other things, the letter stated that the situation with the spread of coronavirus in our country tends to become more serious, and that the relevant institutions at the state level have already taken appropriate measures," read the FF BH statement.

"These measures include banning public gatherings, holding sporting events as well as banning entry into the country for citizens of Italy, Germany, France, Spain, Iran, Korea and China.

"The FF BH further informs UEFA that all BH nationals coming from these areas must be subject to a mandatory 14-day quarantine as well as self-isolation if they come from other areas where COVID19 has occurred. This means that most of our players would not be able to play the play-off match, and the FF BH is asking that once again all the risks that would arise in the event of playing this match should be considered.

"The letter finally emphasizes that the Federation is in constant contact with the relevant state institutions, and that all activities of the FF BH are in accordance with the recommendations and decisions of these institutions."

UEFA will now decide whether to grant the request or insist the game goes ahead, whether in Zenica as planned or at a neutral venue.

Bosnia's fifth case of Covid-19 was detected on Monday in Zenica, the city in which the game is due to take place. The patient is a woman who recently stayed in Italy and was placed in self-isolation on her return to the city.

Ticket sales were postponed earlier this week and the nation's first ban on mass gatherings was then issued in Sarajevo, 70km south-east of Zenica. While the announcement from the Sarajevo Canton Government banning all public meetings of more than 250 people does not directly impact the match, it sets a precedent in the state.

The Republic of Ireland's scheduled opponents have similar problems, with seven members of their squad based in Italy and therefore unable to play or train, or even to enter Slovakia without going through quarantine.

Reports have also suggested that the remainder England's Premier League will be played without supporters as part of the government's expected move to the 'delay' phase in their response to the coronavirus outbreak.

The Belfast Telegraph has contacted UEFA for a response.

Belfast Telegraph