Auckland City out of Club World Cup, cites NZ virus measures

ZURICH (AP) — Coronavirus restrictions in New Zealand have caused next month’s Club World Cup to shrink from seven teams to six.

Auckland City told FIFA on Friday it could no longer represent Oceania at the tournament in Qatar because of the “COVID-19 pandemic and related quarantine measures required by the New Zealand authorities.”

FIFA said the requirements in New Zealand “in relation to isolation and quarantine” go beyond the soccer body’s remit.

Auckland’s absence means Qatari champion Al-Duhail will get a bye into the second round. The six-team tournament draw will be made at FIFA headquarters in Zurich on Tuesday.

New Zealand is also working with FIFA to co-host the 2023 Women’s World Cup with Australia.

New Zealand, led by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, has won wide acclaim for combating the pandemic. The nation of 5 million people has registered only 25 deaths because of COVID-19, according to Johns Hopkins University.

FIFA also praised Qatar, which hosted the latter stages of the Asian Champions League last year.

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