Football: FIFA won't rule out cancelling All Whites international friendlies due to coronavirus

FIFA president Gianni Infantino warns the global spread of coronavirus COVID-19 could lead to the postponement or cancellation of all international football friendlies next month. 

The spread of the virus has already led to the cancelling of various sports events around the world, including the Chinese Formula One and Formula E Grands Prix, the World Athletics Indoor Championships and the Six Nations match between Ireland and Italy.

Football matches have also been affected, with Italian Serie A and Europa League fixtures - including Inter's match against Ludogorets Razgrad - played behind closed doors. 

Next month sees the first international window of 2020 with numerous friendlies and qualifiers scheduled.

The All Whites are due to play Oman on March 27 (NZ time), before facing old foes Bahrain four days later - both taking place in the Middle East. 

Bahrain has had more than 30 cases of Covid-19, which led to the cancellation of a match against Malaysia.

Oman has so far reported four cases of the coronavirus, which originated in Wuhan, China, at the end of last year.

Infantino said football may become the next sport to be affected if the virus cannot be contained.

"We have to look at it seriously. We have to follow the instructions given by the authorities," he said.

"I wouldn't exclude anything at this moment. I hope we will never have to get into this direction. 

"I think it will be difficult in any case to make a global ban or something like that because the situation is different in many parts of the world.

"The health of people is more important than any football game and anything else. Health is beyond anything. That's why we have to look at the situation, we have to monitor it, we have to hope that it will decrease rather than increase. 

FIFA president Gianni Infantino.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino. Photo credit: Reuters

"If games have to be postponed or played without spectators for until it's over well then we have to do that."

The two friendlies were New Zealand's last before the Oceania Nations Cup in June. 

On Friday, New Zealand had its first case of COVID-19 confirmed from a man who'd recently been to Iran and arrived on an Emirates flight.

The 60-year-old New Zealand citizen is currently being cared for at Auckland City Hospital.

The virus has killed nearly 3000 people worldwide.