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Omicron variant wreaks havoc ... Covid-19 again threatens global sports events

General view of a sign outside the stadium after the Premier League match between Burnley and Watford was postponed due to a Covid-19 outbreak. Picture: Phil Noble/Reuters

General view of a sign outside the stadium after the Premier League match between Burnley and Watford was postponed due to a Covid-19 outbreak. Picture: Phil Noble/Reuters

Published Dec 17, 2021


Paris - Just as global sports had rediscovered its brio and the welcome return to full stadia, the Omicron coronavirus variant threatens to once again plunge it into chaos.

AFP Sports casts an eye over the state of play in various sports across the globe, including the Premier League, Africa Cup of Nations and India’s cricket tour of South Africa.

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Premier League

Brentford manager Thomas Frank has called for a circuit break of the season as positive tests pile up across several clubs and it enters one of its most hectic spells of matches.

Jurgen Klopp disagreed with him but with postponements increasing -- five of the matches due to be played on Saturday and Sunday have been called off -- the BBC reported Premier League clubs were due to meet on Monday to discuss the spiralling crisis.

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Africa Cup of Nations

The biennial African football showpiece to be hosted in Cameroon in 2022 has already been postponed from this year. Now it is under threat again.

European clubs have strongly hinted they will not release their players due to fears surrounding the Confederation of African Football's (CAF) Covid-19 health protocol.

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Morocco coach Vahid Halilhodzic told AFP he fears the finals -- due to run from January 9 to February 6 -- will be called off.

"With the health situation, it is getting more and more complicated and difficult," said the 69-year-old former Japan and Ivory Coast coach.

"There is a big question surrounding whether it will happen or not."

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Real Madrid

The Spanish football giants have had a swathe of positive tests during the week: six players including playmaker Luka Modric and assistant coach Davide, son of coach Carlo Ancelotti.

Only two of the players, though, started the previous La Liga match and for the moment Sunday's match against Cadiz is on as under Liga protocols a club must have at least 13 players, at least five of them first-teamers and one a goalkeeper, available to play a match.

Not just their football team have been affected on Monday -- their basketball squad reported cases too.

The Spanish federation has also cancelled from this weekend the traditional shaking of hands between teams as a supplementary measure due to rising cases.


Reduced attendance in stadia with the most radical behind closed doors in Bavaria, home to among others champions Bayern Munich. This measure is part of a series to try and combat the spread of Covid which is seeing 400-500 deaths a day.


The NBA has boosted its Covid-19 measures after a surge in cases saw 52 players go into health protocols this month.

The National Basketball Association's new measures will include more testing and mask wearing for players and staff, American sports broadcaster ESPN reported on Thursday night.

The increased daily testing will begin December 26 and last two weeks.

Players will also be given tests before each game, with those who recently recovered from Covid-19 exempted from game-day testing.

Rugby Union

European Champions and Challenge Cup

The EPCR board meet to discuss whether the six Champions Cup matches involving English and French sides can take place following the French government's stringent travel protocols between the two countries due to take effect from 2300 GMT on Friday.

Three matches have already been called off the Champions Cup games between Montpellier and three-time winners Leinster -- due to the Irish side having covid cases -- and Racing 92 hosting Welsh side Ospreys and a Challenge Cup match between Pau and Premiership side Saracens.

All three French sides will be awarded the points as unlike the Premier League there is no leeway to play the matches later.


Pakistan v West Indies

Covid has already forced the cancellation of a one day series -- part of the qualifying round of the 2023 World Cup -- between Pakistan and the West Indies due to start this weekend with five members of the tourists squad testing positive on Thursday. Officials said those who tested positive will have to isolate in Karachi before being allowed to travel home.


Precious little has gone right so far for England in their bid to regain the Ashes in Australia save they won't have to face the hosts most potent bowler and captain Pat Cummins who has to sit out the second Test due to being in close contact with a positive Covid-19 case.

Cummins was at an Adelaide restaurant on Wednesday evening when a person at the neighbouring table was identified as positive for coronavirus.

Australian players are permitted to dine out in small groups under Covid rules in place for the Ashes in Adelaide, but should steer clear of densely populated places.

India tour of South Africa

India have gone ahead with their tour of South Africa to many people's surprise and to the delight of the hosts cricketing authorities.

They will be in a strict bio-secure bubble during their stay.

The Indians will play three Tests and three one-day internationals despite a surge in coronavirus cases in South Africa, but four planned T20 internationals have been dropped from the original schedule.

The tour is of crucial importance to the cash-strapped host body, which announced a R221-million (about $13.8-million) loss at its annual meeting in October.


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