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MANILA – Ceres Negros and Bali United will have to play their AFC Cup match behind closed doors after the former announced on Tuesday that spectators will not be allowed to enter the Rizal Memorial Stadium due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).

In a statement, Ceres Negros arrived at the decision "after careful consultation with the Philippine Football Federation and the Philippine Sports Commission and conform to measures being adopted by the national and local governments to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 virus."

Both sides, however, agreed during the pre-match press conference at the Century Park Hotel that playing behind closed doors will be tough.

"I don't think it's beneficial for any of us to not have any fans because it's an entertaining sport, so that's a shame," said Bali United midfielder Brwa Nouri.

He further said, "I think every footballer and every team would like to have spectators on the game.... If I could choose, I'd rather have supporters in the game."

On the other hand, Ceres Negros coach Risto Vidakovic said, "[Playing] without the crowd is more difficult."

Josh Grommen added, "It's always good to have the fans supporting and pushing the players on the field to do the best we can."

The match will be crucial as both teams look to end the first round of the group stages on top of Group G.

This will be the first time that an international sporting event the Philippines is hosting will be held behind closed doors since Gilas Pilipinas Men faced Qatar on Sept. 17, 2018 in the FIBA World Cup Qualifiers.

However, the decision to have Gilas Men take on Qatar behind closed doors had nothing to do with any contagious disease as it was part of the penalties the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas got due to the Gilas Men-Australia brawl on July 2, 2018 at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue. (PNA)