OPINION: Sport in the time of Coronavirus
CAPE TOWN – In 2019, Augusta National heard one of its loudest roars around the iconic 18th green when Tiger Woods tapped in for par to win the Masters and his 15th golf Major.
It was one of many spectacular sporting moments last year. Who can forget the Springboks’ brutal demolition of England in the Rugby World Cup final, or the drama that unfolded in the cricket’s global showpiece event between England and New Zealand at Lord’s?
Do you remember Vincent Kompany’s amazing strike against Leicester City to keep Manchester City’s Premier League hopes alive, or Liverpool’s remarkable comeback against Barcelona en route to their sixth Champions League title?
The Women’s Football World Cup was also one of the standout events of 2019, as it produced some scintillating action, and more than its fair share of drama.
But we may have to hold on to these memories for a lot longer in 2020 following the Covid-19 – Coronavirus – outbreak, which has seen many big sporting events and leagues all over the world cancelled or postponed.
Other events have gone ahead behind closed doors - without any fans - but have subsequently also been cancelled or postponed because of the widespread panic around the virus, which is spreading with each passing day.
The roars of delight we enjoyed in 2019 have been replaced by an eerie silence at the venues where matches and events took place without the fans.
It was weird watching Manchester United wallop Lask in an empty stadium the other night, while I have never heard a cover drive reverberate around the famous Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) like it did in Friday’s ODI between Australia and New Zealand.
Many of the big events have been postponed to April, such as the popular Premier League and the Indian Premier League T20 cricket carnival, which is watched by thousands of people at the venues in England and India.
But this is wishful thinking. We may have to prepare ourselves for a prolonged period without our favourite sporting events for at least the next few months. We’ve barely scratched the surface as far as the impact of this virus is concerned.
But it’s better for these events to be postponed, rather than it being played behind closed doors.
There is obviously still a massive threat for the participants in these sporting events, but it also robs the fans of a spectacle.
Imagine the 2020 Masters going ahead without any spectators? Imagine Woods hitting a trademark long-iron stiff and doing his club twirl to scant applause from the marshals.
Thankfully this is not about to happen as organisers on Friday announced that the 2020 Masters Tournament will be postponed.
Statement from Chairman Ridley:— The Masters (@TheMasters) March 13, 2020
"Considering the latest information and expert analysis, we have decided at this time to postpone @TheMasters, @anwagolf and @DriveChipPutt National Finals."
Full details at https://t.co/FX2AN1MLsY pic.twitter.com/Z2DjS5TYdG
Imagine Liverpool being crowned English Premier League champions without a single fan at Anfield or them not being able to have a parade through the streets to show off their first league title in 30 years?
But it also goes beyond sport. Way beyond. Until this virus is contained we have to keep our sports men and women safe and handle the situation with the care it deserves.
For now, we may just have to reminisce about the good old days of 2019.@JohnGoliath82