Coronavirus impact on sports Photograph:( AFP )
COVID-19 has made a lasting impact and the world of sports has been one of the unfortunate victims of the dreaded virus.
Who would have thought an empty Signal Iduna Park hosting the fiercest derby in German football history – Borussia Dortmund vs Bayern Munich, Der Klassiker? Who would have thought the giant yellow flags and the iconic yellow wall will get replaced by glaring empty seats? Who would have thought that miles away in countries like South Korea and Belarus, fans will get replaced by mannequins and human-shaped board cuttings? But that is what experts and authorities call the "new norm”. COVID-19 has made a lasting impact and the world of sports has been one of the unfortunate victims of the dreaded virus.
Financial ramifications and the hit sporting bodies have already taken with tournaments, events, series getting cancelled/postponed is simply scary numbers and can put the world of sports down to its knees. But following the common rule of any sport – “Never Give Up” – sports are kicking back to life but with a different taste for fans and followers of competitive action.
Empty stadiums, substitutes sitting 6-7 feet apart, support staff, camera crew wearing masks and gloves, enough to give a feel that the world is going through an unprecedented survival crisis. But football comes as a sigh of relief that there is light at the end of the tunnel, the joyous feeling that life is coming back to normalcy.
Yes, the booming noise of the ball being passed, players communicating or managers barking instructions seems a bit offbeat but that is what is the new norm. With the return of Premier League, La Liga and Serie A – top European action would be back to life, although it feels like sport is inside a ventilator – fighting for its survival.
Fans would be glued to their television sets watching their favourite superstars back in action but the atmosphere created by those who flock into stadiums will be missing for the foreseeable future. It is indeed a strange feeling to see players, who are involved in a heavy contact sport like football, aren’t allowed to shake hands or give high-five after scoring a goal, and what is even more ridiculous is to see players, who will be breathing down the other players' neck in a while, are sitting feets apart wearing masks and gloves on substitute benches, despite being tested constantly. But that is what the new norm is.
Where's the saliva?
Whereas in cricket, fans of the domestic arena are accustomed to watching matches in almost empty stadiums. But the empty seats, noise of clapping and almost zero atmospheres could irk modern cricket fans. Could you imagine the ICC World Cup 2019 final between England and New Zealand behind closed doors? However, there is still hope that the stump mic could make things interesting in Test cricket. But with strict protocols like saliva ban coming into play, which could potentially disrupt the balance between the willow and ball, Test cricket could very well end up battling for its survival, again. An artificial wax, there’s no word on that. A new norm? Yes, for a while at least.
Denmark’s footballing world witnessed something interesting as 10,000 fans joined in via Zoom app watch party and watched live football. Players, as usual, felt motivated by seeing their supporters watching them. This is something Indian Premier League (IPL) side Kolkata Knight Riders’ (KKR) CEO Venky Mysore talked about during a podcast. Fans joining via video-conferencing apps with digital screens in place of stands? Surely, feels like a Hollywood movie. Imagine, watching MS Dhoni ‘finishing off in style’ through video-conferencing!
The resumption of major European football leagues has already given us a glimpse of how the future looks like. More stadiums would open, employments will resume, leagues will feed themselves with sponsorship and broadcast rights, it will work as an economical boost but can it fill the void left by fans? Well, until a vaccine is developed, this is the new norm. Fans, players, everyone would have to get used to it, no matter what. However strange it may seem, Liverpool after waiting for 30 long years for a Premier League title won’t be able to celebrate it 'together'. Even the players won’t be allowed to go overboard as they are role models to millions. A huge shame? No, as the situation demands it to be like it. New norm? Yes.
But then there are talks going about allowing a limited crowd into the stadiums in countries where the situation is better compared to others. Whatever the future throws into the way, fans, players and everyone associated with it will have to bring another crucial aspect of the sporting world – adaptability.
But one thing is definite, human life has always fought back whenever a crisis has struck, and it continues to do so. And sports, it has time and again taught one of the crucial aspects of life – the will to fight back from the toughest of setbacks, and it will continue to do so.
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)