Football fans around the world were glued to their screens last week as top teams from England and Spain battled it out in the final stages of Europe’s elite competition. But Hong Kong supporters can take pride in the performance of one of the city’s leading clubs in the equivalent tournament in Asia. Kitchee became the first Hong Kong team ever to advance to the knockout stages of the Asian Champions League, with a thrilling 2-2 draw against top-flight Japanese side Vissel Kobe in Thailand last weekend. The result means Kitchee go through to the next round in August when they will play the Thai champions. Their landmark passage through the group stages was achieved despite preparations being disrupted by the city’s biggest outbreak of Covid-19. Sports events were cancelled in January and facilities closed. Even professional teams had nowhere to train. Kitchee flew to Thailand weeks before their first match to ensure they could train. The move paid off, with two narrow wins against Thai team Chiangrai United followed by the crucial draw against Vissel Kobe. This triumph in adversity should not prevent reflection on the way the city responds to future outbreaks of Covid-19. The wholesale ban on sport has had a devastating impact. Hong Kong’s World Cup deadline as Asia tournament offers route to France 2023 Top athletes in elite sports were able to continue training indoors at the Sports Institute in a “closed-camp” environment. But other sports and lower level competitors were seriously affected. The Premier League football season was cancelled. Swimming pools, tennis courts and basketball facilities were shut. Golfers could not play. Seven months went by without a senior athletics meeting. Facilities only opened again late last month, and even then participants were – until last week – required to wear masks. The halting of sports has interrupted preparations for the Asian Games this year, although these have now been postponed. It has also sparked concerns talented youngsters have given up on sport. Swimming pools have been closed for 400 days during the pandemic. As one coach put it: “Swimming training without a pool is very challenging.” Clubs are estimated to have lost a quarter of their novice players. Tennis has also suffered. Travel restrictions made it difficult for young players to participate in events overseas. Arrangements should be put in place for training bubbles and the staging of events behind closed doors if the threat of Covid-19 emerges again. Sport is healthy for the body and mind. Professional athletes – and those who aspire to reach such heights – need to be able to train and compete, even during a pandemic.