REPORTS this week that English Premier League action may return in June, albeit with no in-match spectators in the wake of Covid-19, have sparked a ray of hope amid the gloom of a wide-reaching epidemic.
While the thought of an empty stadium is a most inconceivable one — indeed it is hard to imagine football without fans in the stands — at least some world-class sport again will perhaps signify the initial escape from the shackles of an unprecedented threat posed by a global health crisis unlike no other.
For the fan in Zimbabwe, it will mean live football back on television, marking some kind of return to normal life as we know it.England is not the only country in Europe reported to be at an advanced stage of talks over resuming its professional football season.
Italy, the worst-affected European country in terms of deaths from the coronavirus, is hoping to test all players in the Serie A beginning May with a view of resuming and completing the competition.
In Germany, at the beginning of this month they became the first of Europe’s major leagues to allow players to restart training, although in smaller groups. Players there will also be tested for Covid-19 before the season can restart.
The situation in these countries is different from quite a lot of countries like ours in Africa in that while in Europe the domestic competitions were already in the twilight stages when Covid-19 struck, in Zimbabwe, for example, the new season was just about to begin.
It goes without saying, then, that while the European nations are laying the groundwork for a possible resumption of their season, we also need to go through the same very necessary procedures in order to start ours.
Playing before empty seats, even if you were to test all the players, is definitely out of the question because in our parts of the world, the clubs survive almost solely on what the fans pay to watch them play.
The fans are waiting, eagerly. We are all waiting.But, I am just trying to envision how there can possibly be any football in Zimbabwe soon. In fact, all the other sporting disciplines.
The nation is currently under a lockdown, the second lap of which ends in few days’ time. It could be further extended.Nonetheless, in the much-desired scenario of a reduction in the number of new Covid-19 cases, thus resulting in the end of the lockdown, we still need to remind ourselves that we are not totally out of danger.
Quite evidently, a vast majority of people in this country have not adhered to lockdown measures, maintaining reasonable and safe social distance. And this is not all willful. Desperate folk, deprived of normal life by this pandemic, gather and queue for basic commodities daily in their neighbourhoods. A lot live in conditions that do not afford them the luxury of distance.
Some of these people include our sports stars, who we continuously hope will be able to entertain us again in the different public places, soon.Now, think about this: what could possibly happen that time when it appears that the storm is over, and all these people emerge from different places to gather at the various sporting venues, and a number of them still unsuspectingly carrying the virus?
Goodness gracious, we need our sport back. But let us not drop guard. It could hurt us deeper.