By Ishwar Nath Jha
New Delhi, December 30 (IANS): Due to the rapid spread of cases involving new variants of Covid-19, sporting events around the world – from football to cricket and the NBA to tennis – are once again under threat. In many countries, including India, sporting events have been suspended or their schedules changed.
In cricket, two major series are underway. England are playing the Ashes series in Australia and India is set to win the first test match at Centurion against South Africa, which has been hit hard by cases involving Omicron, the new variant of the novel coronavirus.
After losing the Ashes, England under pressure received bad news on Thursday as their coach Chris Silverwood will not travel with the squad for the fourth test in Sydney after a family member tested positive for Covid -19.
Silverwood and his family are to self-isolate in Melbourne for 10 days while the rest of the squad travel to Sydney for the clash from January 5. However, Australian media reported that English fast bowling coach Jon Lewis, spin coach Jeetan Patel and strength and conditioning boss Darren Veness were also seen as isolated.
Earlier, Australian test captain Pat Cummins had to be absent from the second test in Adelaide as he was ruled out under South Australia’s Covid-19 rules as he was considered close contact.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and Cricket South Africa (CSA) have reiterated the safety of cricketers, but the increase in cases in the country is a cause for concern for both teams. Prior to the start of the India tour, the ASC had postponed domestic events, including the ASC Division 2 4-day National Series matches scheduled to take place from December 2-5.
Last month, the International Cricket Council (ICC) had to cancel the Women’s Cricket World Cup qualifying tournament in Zimbabwe after a Sri Lankan support staff member tested positive for Covid-19 and this prompted the ICC to decide to cancel the match between the West Indies and Sri Lanka. Later, during ICC Events Manager, Chris Tetley advised of the tournament cancellation.
In India, the I-League games on December 30 and 31 have been postponed due to the Covid-19 epidemic in the teams. The League Committee of the Indian Football Federation (AIFF) had to intervene following new challenges and decided to postpone the matches of the next round scheduled for December 30 and 31 after the detection of positive cases for Covid-19 among participating teams.
However, the fate of the I-League is still in balance. Meanwhile, the AIFF released a statement on Wednesday, saying all players, staff and referees will be tested regularly to avoid another outbreak.
One of the most prestigious football leagues in the world, the English Premier League has been hit hard by Covid-19 as clubs reeling from the spread of the virus. The League has reported a record 103 positive cases which include numerous players, coaches and support staff over the past week; However, the PL board has provided all kinds of club support, including rescheduling matches.
Another well-known football league, Spain’s La Liga, has also been hit hard by the current spate of Covid-19 cases in Spain.
Top Spanish club Barcelona announced on Wednesday that three other players – Ousmane Dembele, Samuel Umtiti and Gavi – had tested positive. The Spanish club have already been grappling with the cases in their camp as Clement Lenglet, Dani Alves, Jordi Alba and Alejandro Balde had contracted the virus earlier this week. According to the Spanish sports newspaper “Diario AS”, the first two days back to training saw 86 cases of the virus reported by clubs.
The NBA has also postponed or rescheduled many games due to the entry of players and staff into NBA health and safety protocols as the country is hit hard by the new wave of pandemics.
Even though many stars and officials have called for a shutdown, Football Delhi President Shaji Prabhakaran has a different take on shutting down sporting events due to Covid-19.
âStopping the events is not going to help us. The waves come and go and we have to live with them. Sports activities are necessary to strengthen the immune system. We only need to improve the mechanisms to fight the pandemic. Right now we have a kind of bio-bubble. Each event has a different bio-bubble. EPL players have to travel to play the matches that exposed them to the virus, while events like Indian Premier League, Indian Super League, Pro Kabaddi League and I- the league have different bio-bubbles where all those involved must stay in a safe place, âhe said.
Pro Kabaddi League Patna Pirates franchise coach Ram Mehar Singh has said that they are happy to live in a secure bio-bubble and that each team must follow the guidelines of Covid-19 for the smooth running of the event.
âWe certainly keep abreast of the ever-evolving Covid situation in the country. However, we have very strict protocols during matches, which are followed without compromise by all staff related to Season 8 of the Pro Kabaddi League. . No one is allowed to do this. Leave the premises since the start of our training and will continue until the end of the competition, “said the coach.
“We are all vaccinated with double doses. However, we always make sure that the RTPCR every 48 hours is done to ensure the safety of players and others. We are committed to making the kabaddi league a success, a safety and an unforgettable memory for all kabaddi fans to wear masks and avoid crowded places more than ever, especially during New Year celebrations, “he added.