Chinese professional football kicked back on the mainland yesterday - the first time since the Sars outbreak led to the shutdown of competitive sports in April. However, the victims of the virus were not forgotten. All six stadiums hosting Division A matches in the Chinese National Football League fell quiet for a minute's silence in remembrance of those who died. However, the sombre opening could not dampen the enthusiasm of the fans. Shenzhen City Stadium was close to its 35,000 capacity, far more than the 24,000 fans the Shenzhen Jianlibao club had expected for their match against Chongqing Lifan New Feeling, despite the game being televised live nationwide. 'Without football, something was lacking,' said Guo Feng, a 34-year-old clerk who has held a season ticket for the Shenzhen team since the professional league began in 1995. Huang Xingwei, another long-time season ticket holder, said: 'This is the only football team in Shenzhen and it's the only team I've ever supported. It's nice to see them back in action.' The resumption was also greeted with delight by Guangdong's sports journalists, who have been scraping around for stories during the barren weeks. 'For more than two months, I didn't see a game until I went to the Asian Women's Championship in Bangkok. Life is much better now football is back,' explained Ma Xiaoyong, a reporter for the Guangzhou-based Soccer News. A banner in the stadium, saying 'Lo Wu District People's Hospital wishes Shenzhen Jianlibao well', was a reminder of the role of the medical community recently. The sport has not escaped unscathed from the three-month hiatus. Many of the Division A clubs are jostling for position in the new Super League, which will cut the number of top clubs from 15 to 12. 'The clubs have had to pay their players but they've had no income for three months. To get into the Super League, the clubs have to show they have good finances, so they are under a lot of pressure,' a source said.