The rampaging effect of Coronavirus sweeping across the globe is having a massive effect in the sports sector. It is estimated that over $1.3 trillion have been lost in the past one week due to the current worldwide lockdown due to the spread of the deadly disease.
As at today, over 20 professional footballers have been diagnosed with COVID-19. Five of the players are on Italian club Sampdoria – Omar Colley, Albin Ekdal, Manolo Gabbiadini, Antonino La Gumina, and Morten Thorsby, while the most notable cases in English football have been Chelsea player Callum Hudson-Odoi and Arsenal Manager Mikel Arteta.
The latest development is that the president of Mexican club Atletico San Luis, Alberto Marrero, has tested positive, becoming the first case in Mexican soccer. The club announced the positive test but added he was in stable condition. At Espanyol, in Spain, six unnamed members of the first team and the technical staff have been confirmed positive. Two Juventus players – Aniele Rugani and Blaise Matuidi – as well as three Fiorentina players – Patrick Cutrone, German Pezzella and Dusan Vlahovic – are also confirmed positive to COVID-19.
Also NBA basketball star, Kelvin Durant, is among the four players of Brooklyn Nets who have test positive.
We observe that the ravaging effects of coronavirus on sportsmen have led to the total lockdown in sports worldwide. The English Premier League has been put off till end of April. World Cup and AFCON qualifiers are off as well at a time many were warming up to see the return of Kelechi Iheanacho in the Super Eagles against Sierra Leone.
Top European leagues like Spain, Italy, France and Germany also shut down football activities. Gradually, all sporting events were grinding to a halt. Major marathon events postponed, Euro 2020 is now Euro 2021, French Open now slated for September… all due to the bad impact of COVID-19 on the world.
Amidst all of these, the Turkish league was still on last weekend and when former Eagles skipper Mikel Obi declined to play, urging the authorities to suspend the league, Tranzospor officials did not like this and somehow the club parted ways with Mikel after which the league was suspended. We are proud of the stand of Mikel even to the extent of losing his job at the club. He is one of the heroes of COVID-19.
Last weekend, there were no live games from the major leagues, the boredom was evident as if the world was mourning. The Nigerian league however took place on Sunday and surprisingly last Wednesday. On Tuesday, the National Sports Festival scheduled for Edo State was also suspended till further notice. All the businesses and services projected for March 22 to April 1 were truncated with that decision.
We make bold to say that if government and the organisers of Edo 2020 have been pro-active, the event would have been staged without a shift. If, for example, the foreign-based athletes were not allowed to take part and the government had shut the land, sea and air borders well before now, Nigeria would not have been affected at all. All the cases on the ground were brought from Italy, USA and the UK. We are aware of the controversy over the Olympic Games as the athletes are complaining that the qualifying events cannot take place because of the current situation while the International Olympic Committee is still looking at the July 24 date. No athlete can train properly for now and so it is expected that the IOC will still bend at some point.
In sports, so many people are attached to the industry in line of business. Those who print tickets for games are in trouble for now just as people who sell food and other things at stadia nationwide will also be on holiday. The main actors, the players are not going to get their match bonuses while referees and stadium officials who make money on match days will have to wait till May to make money on weekly basis.
The gaming outfits are the most hit as people who stake have little or nothing to stake on. Stakers are lamenting since some youths bank on what they can make from sports betting to make ends meet on a weekly basis.
For professionals in various aspects of sports, the situation is the same. For example, pundits who are on contract to evaluate live games will have nothing to take home. Some former Internationals in Nigeria and abroad are affected.
We observed that at the weekend digital satellite television chose to bring back old football, tennis and boxing games with the title ‘relive.’ This is obviously aimed at entertaining the viewers at this time of no live games anywhere.
No doubt, the massive impact of coronavirus is a big loss to businesses in the country and it is also an opportunity for people in this sector to be more creative in their day-to-day activities in sports.
It is even worse as there is no time frame for the current situation which is putting many people in the sports sector on the edge. All stakeholders pray for an end to COVID-19 so that all aspects of the sector will come alive again.