Buriram United player Akbar Ismatullaev has tested positive for COVID-19 on the eve of the Thai League season restart

Thai public health officials confirmed on Friday that a footballer has tested positive for coronavirus.

This news comes as a major blow as fans have been waiting for the league to resume since March 1, and could once again face further delays and complications due to this latest development. 

As a result, the Football Association of Thailand (FAT) and the Ministry of Public Health have announced that all of Buriram United’s upcoming match against BG Pathum United, scheduled to take place on September 13, will be rescheduled to a later date as the team will now be asked to isolate. 

Akbar Ismatullaev tested positive for the virus at Buriram’s training camp in Bang Bo, Samut Prakan, where they always stay before their matches against teams in the greater Bangkok region. He had been quarantined in Bangkok before going to Buriram.

Dr Yong Poovarawan, one of the country’s top virologists, said at a press conference on Friday that he believes that the footballer caught the virus before arriving in Thailand on August 13.

Ismatullaev arrived in Bangkok and stayed at an alternate state quarantine hotel until he left the ASQ on August 27 and then tested positive later on September 10.

Authorities are now retesting 43 people close to him on Friday, including 22 footballers and 21 staffs. They are also looking to test plane crews and passengers, staffs at Ismatullaev’s team’s training camp along with other people who have been in close contact with him at restaurants and other places that he had been to in Bangkok and Buriram between August 13 and September 10.

Dr Yong added that even though it is rare, it is possible for a person to tested positive for the virus as the infection period could last up to 28 days.

This latest development also has ramifications for other teams Buriram United have played against recently. Ismatullaev was featured in pre-season friendly matches against Ratchaburi FC (T1) on August 30th, and Khon Kaen United (T2) six days later.

The FAT have confirmed that Ratchaburi’s home match against Bangkok United, scheduled to take place tomorrow, has been postponed. Khon Kaen United’s match against Siam Navy FC will also be moved.

Ismatullaev joined Buriram during the recent transfer window, and arrived in Thailand on August 13th from his native Uzbekistan. He tested negative for COVID-19 and spent 14 days in quarantine in Bangkok before traveling to Buriram to join up with the squad.

Additional reporting by Erich Parpart

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