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Sports events under threat after global surge in cases involving new variant

Written by corres2

New Delhi, December 30 (IANS) Due to the rapid spread of cases involving new variants of Covid-19, sports events around the world — from football to cricket and NBA to Tennis — are again under threat. In many countries including India, sports events have either been suspended or their schedule changed.

In cricket, two major series are in progress. England are playing the Ashes series in Australia and India is on the cusp of winning the first Test match in Centurion against South Africa, which is badly affected by cases involving Omicron, the new variant of Novel Coronavirus.

After losing the Ashes, under-pressure England got some bad news on Thursday as his coach Chris Silverwood will not travel with the team for the fourth Test in Sydney after a family member tested positive for the Covid-19.

Silverwood and his family have to isolate in Melbourne for 10 days while the rest of the team heads to Sydney for the clash starting on January 5. However, the Australian media has reported that England fast bowling coach Jon Lewis, spin coach Jeetan Patel and strength and conditioning boss Darren Veness were also believed to be in isolation.

Earlier Australia Test captain Pat Cummins had to sit out of the second Test at Adelaide, as he was ruled out under South Australian Covid-19 rules because he was deemed a close contact.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and Cricket South Africa (CSA) have been reiterating about the safety of cricketers, but rising cases in the country is a cause of concern for both teams. Before the India tour started, the CSA had postponed domestic events including, Round 4, Division Two CSA 4-Day Domestic Series matches scheduled to take place 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 member of the Sri Lankan support staff tested positive for Covid-19 and that prompted ICC to decide on cancelling the match between West Indies and Sri Lanka. Later on ICC Head of Events, Chris Tetley informed about the cancellation of the tournament.

In India, I-League matches on December 30 and 31 have been postponed due to the Covid-19 outbreak in the teams. The All India Football Federation (AIFF) League Committee had to intervene in the wake of new challenges and decided to postpone the next round matches scheduled on December 30-31 after Covid-19 positive cases were detected among participating teams.

However, the fate of the I-League still hangs in balance. Meanwhile, AIFF issued a statement on Wednesday, saying that all players, staff, and referees will be tested regularly to avoid a further outbreak.

One of the most prestigious football leagues in the World, the English Premier League has taken a massive hit by Covid-19 as the clubs are reeling under the spread of the virus. The League has reported a record 103 positive cases that include many players, coaches, and support staff in the last week; However, the PL governing board assured all kinds of help to the clubs including re-scheduling of the matches.

Another well-known football league, La Liga of Spain, has also been badly affected by the ongoing wave of Covid-19 cases in Spain.

The top Spanish club Barcelona on Wednesday reported that three more players — Ousmane Dembele, Samuel Umtiti, and Gavi — have tested positive. The Spanish club has already been struggling 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 paper ‘Diario AS’, the first two days back at training has seen 86 cases of the virus reported by clubs.

The NBA too has either postponed or rescheduled many games because of players and staff members entering the NBA’s health and safety protocols as the country is badly hit by the new wave of pandemics.

Even as many stars and officials have called for halting activities, Football Delhi president Shaji Prabhakaran has a different view on stopping the sports events due to Covid-19.

“Stopping events is not going to help us. The waves are coming and going and we have to live with them. Sports activities are necessary for increasing immune systems. We only need to enhance mechanisms for fighting the pandemic. At present we have a different 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, whereas events like the Indian Premier League, Indian Super League, Pro Kabaddi League, and I-league have different bio-bubble where all the involved persons have to stay in a secure place,” he said.

Pro Kabaddi League franchise Patna Pirates coach, Ram Mehar Singh said that they are happy living in a secure bio-bubble and every team has to follow the Covid-19 guidelines for the smooth running of the event.

“We are certainly keeping ourselves abreast of the ever-evolving situation of Covid in the country. However, we have very strict protocols at the games, which are followed uncompromisingly by all staff linked to Pro Kabaddi League season 8. No one is allowed to step out of the premises since our training started and will continue till the competition is over,” the coach said.

“We all are vaccinated with double doses. However, we are still ensuring that every 48 hours RTPCR is done to ensure the safety of players and others. We are committed to making the kabaddi league successful, safe, and memorable for all. I urge kabaddi fans to wear masks and avoid crowded places more than ever, especially during New Year celebrations,” he added.

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