I’m talking to my editor on the phone, and he asks, “Will the Germany vs Belgium Pro league matches take place or is it the end of the Pro League?”
“It will go on, perhaps playing games in empty stadiums.” I say.
And in that split-second while i was still on call, I heard an alert on my phone. It was an email from the German Hockey Federation stating that the Germany vs Belgium Pro League games will be played, albeit without spectators.
Corona virus has everyone spooked, and that’s understandable. There have been more than 110,000 confirmed cases and 3,500 deaths around the globe, and there still is no vaccine or cure for it.
It’s everywhere, this unseen menace, and the world is now coming to grips with a new reality, a reality that seems to change by the hour.
Against this backdrop, it seems irrelevant to talk about the virus’s impact on sports. But, you can’t help think how the virus is already shutting down major hockey and sporting events around the world. It’s scary.
Earlier in the month, it was announced that the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup that takes place in Malaysia every year has been postponed.
Three days ago, Australia and New Zealand pulled out from travelling to Europe for the Pro League matches, and a day before, the Asian Women’s Cup Championship scheduled to take place in April in Kakamigahara, Japan got postponed.
Here’s what has happened so far in hockey:
January 30 : The China vs Australia women’s Pro League hockey matches got cancelled/postponed.
February 1 : The Belgium women’s hockey team cancelled their trip to China for a two day test match scheduled to take place on February 8th and 9th in Changzhou.
February 10 : The Indian women’s hockey teams tour of China from March 14th to 25th was cancelled.
February 11 : The Irish women’s hockey teams tour of Malaysia in March and April was cancelled.
March 2: The prestigious Sultan Azlan Shah Cup tournament that takes place in Malaysia every year was postponed.
March 7 : Australia women’s hockey team cancelled their trip to China for the two Pro League games scheduled to take place on 14th and 15th March in Changzhou.
March 8 : Australia men and women pulled out from travelling to Europe to play the two Pro league hockey matches.
March 9 : New Zealand pulled out from travelling to Europe to play the two Pro league hockey matches.
March 10 : The Women’s Junior Cup Asia tournament in Kakamigahara, Japan got postponed.
March 11 : The 2020 Indoor Hockey Pan American Cups got postponed.
March 12 : The Spanish Hockey Federation suspended the U-16 Spanish Championship as well as most national tournaments.
Tokyo Olympic 2020 vs Rio Olympics 2016 : A case of déjà vu
I can’t help but think that 2020 is a sadistic case of déjà vu. This is not the first time a virus has cast a shadow over the run-up to the Olympics.
In the run-up to the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, the Zi-virukas afflicted Brazil and put the games in jeopardy.
The Zika virus like the Corona virus too kept everyone on the edge. However, while the Corona virus could prompt similar concerns as the Olympics approach, the virus itself is very, very different.
The Zika virus is largely transmitted by mosquitoes, and its impact is most significant for pregnant women.
The Corona virus, meanwhile, is transmitted from person to person and is believed to impact the full spectrum of our population.
Because it appears to transmit very efficiently and easily from person to person, it does pose some additional challenges that Zika did not.
It’s certainly much harder to prevent touching the wrong doorknob or getting exposed to an ill person sitting next to you than it is to avoid getting bit by a mosquito.
But, one thing i am really happy to witness is, how Hockey Federations world over are worried about their players and doing their bit to generate awareness to prevent the spread of the virus.
Players come in in contact with dozens, if not hundreds, of people before, during and after games. Their teammates. The coaching staff. Referees. Team personnel. Vendors. Ushers. Maintenance personnel. Player safety is priority.
Whether it was the Malaysian Hockey Federation’s decision to postpone the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup or Australia and New Zealand pulling out from travelling to Europe, everyone’s been supportive.
For the time being, all federations can do isas it develops in and prepare for the possibility of a wider spread if it comes to that.
Impact on the FIH Pro League 2020
Irrespective of what i felt about the first edition of the Pro League, I hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate the idea that this FIH Pro League season might come to a premature end.
When the Corona virus hits a region, it hits fast. When people start to die, we react forcefully in the modern world. Sometimes we over react in the name of safety. I don’t see why we would suddenly change now as we face the unknown threat of coronavirus.
My own bet is the Pro League season 2020 will go on. Some games will be postponed, but many if not all games will be played behind closed doors.
Will the Olympics be postponed?
Like it or not, Japan is at the forefront of the Corona virus conversation for weeks to come.
Bookmakers around the world have already began taking bets: 4/6 the opening ceremony will not go ahead in Tokyo as scheduled, or 11/10 that it will.
According to Japanese Minister for the Tokyo Olympic Games Seiko Hashimoto, an agreement between Japan and the IOC is a possible postponement of the Games.
But, Senior IOC member Dick Pound, a former International Olympic Committee vice president said, the outbreak could lead to the cancellation of the Olympics.
It’s hard to know whether Pound really believes his statement or if he was just throwing in a pleaser for the reporters.
How nations across the world contain the virus will play a vital role in deciding Japan’s Olympic destiny.
At this point i can only say, try not to touch your face. Wash your hands frequently. Stay 3 feet away from someone coughing, and wait and see what Japan will do.
Your Hockey girl.
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