The COVID-19 is spreading around the world and the footballing community is not beyond its grasp. Let's see how it is changing the calendar!

Article Detail

Since its break-out in Wuhan province in China, Coronavirus has taken the world by storm. Doctors are predicting that almost 40 to 70 percent of the world population would be affected by the virus by the end of 2021. 

This pandemic has disrupted everyday life across the countries a big time and sports is also a part of that. European football leagues have started taking measures beforehand but as it stands right now, things are more serious than it seemed. 

Italy, one of the worst-hit countries, had already ordered a lot of the matches to be played in empty stadiums, and now, a lot of the other leagues are also joining hands in action. Let us take a look at how it has hit the footballing world

The “visit” of Evangelos Marinakis 

Nottingham Forrest and Olympiacos owner Evangelos Marinakis has announced that “the recent virus has visited him and he felt obliged to let the public know.” 

Marinakis was present at the City Ground to see his team play Millwall, with 27,000 other fans. He met the players and staff that day and this is what has triggered the alarm. 

The club management has announced, “Nottingham Forest can confirm that owner Evangelos Marinakis has tested positive for the coronavirus...The club are seeking advice from medical professionals and the relevant governing bodies to ensure the correct measures are taken.”

Marinakis was also present at the Emirates stadium to watch Olympiacos play Arsenal in the Europa League. So, Arsenal management posted a statement assuring the fans,

“Our home match with Olympiakos in the Europa League was played on Thursday, 27 February and none of our staff who came into contact with Mr Marinakis on that matchday have reported any symptoms since. 

“We continue to follow strict protocols with regard to coronavirus. We’re following the government health guidelines and have additional procedures in place to protect our players and staff. This has included regular deep cleaning of areas used by players at Emirates Stadium and our training centre.”

But the players have locked themselves up in self-isolation and as an aftermath to the event, the Premier League tie between Manchester City and Arsenal is postponed. This is the first instance of COVID-19 interrupting football in England.  

England vs Italy in doubt

Italy is the worst-hit country in the European circuit and the Italian government is set to place 16 million people in Lombardy in quarantine till the 3rd of April. The UK Foreign Office has also advised against “all but essential travel” as of now but FA is yet to postpone the friendly between England and Italy, set to take place at Wembly on 27th of March. 

Similarly, another friendly at Wembly four days later is also in doubt and all decisions lay with the UK Government. 

EFL in trouble:

The English Football League has raised the concerns of failing business if the matches are called off or played in empty stadiums. Since the country has not yet recorded any alarming state of infection, the governing bodies have not yet decided to take the extreme measures.

A correspondent of the DCMS (Department of Culture, Media and Sports) said,

“Senior government officials chaired a constructive meeting of sports and broadcast partners, as part of sensible contingency planning in relation to Covid-19. 

“This included a discussion of how staging sporting events behind closed doors could work in practice, should the situation change and become necessary. However, based upon the current scientific advice from the government’s medical experts there is no rationale to close or cancel sporting events as things stand.”

Premier League Clubs To Be Hosted by Empty Seats

Manchester United are set to travel to Austria to face LASK in their round-of-16 tie in the Europa League, and the Austrian health-minister, Rudolf Anschober has advised all public events where more than 500 people can gather, has to be held behind closed doors. 

Chelsea’s visit to Bavaria and Wolves’ visit to Greece will also be held without the crowd getting access to the action. Similarly, Rangers will also play their next two matches against Bayer Leverkusen and Celtic inside closed doors. 

The world 

La Liga officials have also decided to follow a similar step and have decided that all the matches in the top two tiers of Spanish football would be played behind closed doors for the next two weeks. Recently, Valencia played their Champions League match against Atalanta behind closed doors.

In Ligue 1, Paris Saint-Germain’s visit to Strasbourg has already been called off due to the concerns. The concerning authority has announced that all sporting events till April 3rd would be held behind closed doors.

The speculation over Euro 2020 still remains as BNP Paribas have already decided to scrap their Indian-Wells Tennis Championship for this year.

Read | Coronavirus and its impact on cricket

Feature image courtesy: AFP / Vincenzo Pinto