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9 Apr, 2020 21:16

'I will bring the Wuhan spirit to the football pitch': Footballer says pandemic 'is over' after three-month coronavirus exile ends

'I will bring the Wuhan spirit to the football pitch': Footballer says pandemic 'is over' after three-month coronavirus exile ends

Chinese Footballer of the Year Wang Shuang has returned to training and says the winning mentality of people in Wuhan was key to ending the three-month lockdown that saw her miss qualifying for the postponed Tokyo Olympics.

Wang was stranded in Wuhan for 75 days after receiving permission to return to her home city for the Lunar New Year with two teammates just a day after finishing a training camp with China.

Their homecoming unwittingly caused the trio to miss out on playing for their country at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games qualification tournament in Australia, but they have been recalled for a training camp in Suzhou after the lockdown was finally lifted in the city where the outbreak is thought to have begun.

“As a Wuhan citizen, we always carry the spirit of ‘never losing’ and that’s why we can finally overcome the pandemic,” the Chinese Women’s Footballer of the Year, who is looking to win the award for a fourth successive year, told the South China Morning Post.

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“Now the pandemic is over and I look forward to playing for my country again, fighting for international honours. I will also bring the Wuhan spirit to the football pitch so that we can win more matches.”

Midfielder Wang, who plays for Wuhan Jianghan University following a season with Paris Saint Germain, will have a second chance to exert her influence on China’s qualification campaign for the Olympics after their two-legged tie against South Korea was rescheduled to 2021 due to the pandemic.

The games themselves have also been postponed until next year, when Wang will aim to help China achieve more glory after their Yongchuan International Tournament victory in November, lifting the trophy on home soil with a 4-2 penalty shootout win following a goalless draw with Brazil in the final.

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The Olympic qualifiers were originally scheduled to take place in Wuhan before originally being switched to Nanjing and then moved to Sydney by the Asian Football Confederation.

In Wang’s absence, China finished second in their group and were quarantined at their Brisbane base for several days while squad members undertook tests for the virus amid escalating health concerns.

Restrictions in Wuhan, where around 2,500 people are thought to have died as a result of contracting Covid-19, were partially lifted on Wednesday in a move that has given hope to people facing lockdowns across the world.

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The city has accounted for more than three-quarters of China’s fatalities from the virus, and the 2018 Asian Footballer of the Year made a donation of more than $85,000 as the crisis gripped the region.

Wang has kept fit during quarantine, posting videos of herself running back and forth on a balcony, carrying out conditioning sessions with resistance bands and exchanging long passes with a partner on a street.