Minenhle Mkhize.
Minenhle Mkhize.

OPINION: Suspending play was the right thing to do

By Minenhle Mkhize Time of article published Mar 17, 2020

Share this article:

Desperate times call for desperate measures.

The world of sport is going through torrid times with the coronavirus pandemic, which has had a huge impact on all spheres of public life.

As such, the majority of footballing leagues across the world - and indeed many other sporting codes - have taken the decision to suspend their action until further notice.

That’s the best judgement. That’s the way to go.

Otherwise, if all these leagues continue, more people could be infected, become ill and pass on the virus to other, healthy individuals. That’s not what we want to see.

Nevertheless, it was very strange to witness the blockbuster encounter between Juventus and Inter Milan in Italy last week bereft of any supporters in the stands.

These are two giants of Italian football, the Old Lady and the Nerazzurri. It was a pity. That game deserved an atmosphere because of what was and is at stake. Moreover, can you imagine how much those clubs lost in gate takings?

And what about the vendors at the stadium? They must have lost out massively with perhaps even their livelihoods at stake. The coronavirus is not only affecting clubs and players then - it is also impacting the financial side of football.

But in the interest of public health, the game was played behind closed doors, even though both clubs were fighting for championship supremacy in the Serie A. Authorities in that country have since suspended the league and all other football activities as the country grapples with a lockdown quarantine.

Manchester United also played behind closed doors in their Uefa Europa League last 16 tie against LASK - which they won 5-0 - last Thursday.

It was the same case with PSG v Borussia Dortmund in the Uefa Champions League last week. In that game, the Parisians dramatically snuck through to the quarter-finals 3-2 on aggregate.

It is unfair for entertainers like Cristiano Ronaldo, Romelo Lukaku, Kylian Mbampe, Neymar and Bruno Fernandes to play at stadiums with no spectators - they must be witnessed in all their glory to be truly appreciated.

Can you imagine Liverpool lifting a league title with no spectators? They have waited for 30 years to witness their team tasting success in the league.

Surely their fans want to be part of the triumph and it would be unjust to their supporters to not participate in that celebration. There was no way that the Premier League was going to continue after Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta was diagnosed with COVID-19. But hopefully the league will see some sort of conclusion that will allow Reds fans to enjoy their league success as champions.

This is a crisis, even for us as sports journalists. It is even worse for those that are freelancing - for them it is no work, no pay. So, this coronavirus is not only affecting the players, coaches, teams and fans but also the media.

Nevertheless, the different stakeholders have taken the right decision to suspend all action until further notice.

We hope and pray that it will soon flatten out and pass.

We need to see our sporting heroes and entertainers on the fields where they belong, in front of jam-packed stadiums full of supporters willing them on.


The Mercury

Share this article: