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Sports Under Viral Turmoil

Sports Under Viral Turmoil

Evidently in the recent weeks, the world is under siege. A war that has been fought a thousand times, yet every time humanity seizes an opportunity to fight back, the enemy retaliates harder.

It was late December of last year when Chinese news stations announced to the world that they have discovered another potential threat to humanity which first affected an old man in the city of Wuhan with an unknown infection. It was slowly propagating affecting more individuals in the region. But because it was an isolated case and the entire world was busy for the New Year’s Eve preparations, almost everyone seemingly ignored it. On December 31, 2019, Chinese authorities alerted the World Health Organization (WHO) of increasing pneumonia cases in Hubie Province, particularly in Wuhan City.

January 2020, as the New Year just showed its first sunrise to world, from one man, the number drastically increased to 44 suspected patients. China firstly isolated the cause of the mystery disease as a newly discovered strain of the coronavirus. And on January 9, 2020, the first person to succumb to this mystery disease was reported. Four days later, Thailand reported its first case; and a week after, a spike of confirmed imported cases enveloped the entire Asia-Pacific region. The WHO was then indecisive whether to pose this threat as a public health emergency.

Before the end of January, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus reconvened and declared the then called COVID-19 disease a public health emergency. But it seems a little bit too late already. By February, numerous reported deaths related to the disease was no longer isolated in Asia, but it already spread-out like wild fire around the world.

The isolated case evolved to an outbreak; then into an epidemic; until it was considered a global pandemic – the worst of it kind in the recent generation. COVID -19 disease took the world by storm, causing a lot of governments to enact in full timely phase – Closing down borders, isolating communities to quarantine, shutting down public transports, and minimizing actual human social interactions. COVID-19 declared war to humanity.

As the virus spread, an increasing number of matches and sporting events have either been staged behind closed doors, postponed or increasingly, cancelled outright. As major leagues get suspended in the wake of the virus, United States’ NBA pressed the decision button for everyone.

Back in Asia, where the epicenter of the pandemic begun, Chinese football Super Leagues were suspended and moved to a later date until at least April. F1 races where cancelled as Australian racers were tested positive of the disease. Japan’s Olympics were postponed to 2021 as more countries backing out from fear.

In the Philippines, preparations for the anticipated Palarong Pambansa were put to hold when the City of Marikina, this year’s host, indefinitely suspended the event after the widespread increase of COVID-19 disease cases in the capital region. Regional events, like the Davao Regional Athletics Association Meet (DAVRAA – Meet) which will be held in Davao de Oro has also been postponed further after its first postponement last Month. DAVRAA was previously set on March 15-22 but was postponed to April 1-7; but was further postponed indefinitely as there are still no assurances about to when the viral siege will come to a halt. The suspension came after the Department of Education (DepEd) released the Memorandum No. 34 series of 2020 or the “Fifth Set of Policy Directives of DepEd Task Force COVID-19”. DepEd XI Spokesperson Jenielito Atillo clarified that the indefinite suspension does not mean cancellation of this year’s event. He also said that the event will still be staged, but only after the situation on COVID-19 will be placed under control.

As classes got suspended, so were varsity practices. The Holy Child College of Davao Red Eagles, four-peat defending champion of Davao City Athletics Association (DCAA) Meet, for instance have teams and players that will be representing Davao City again this year for the DAVRAA Meet. The school have been preparing for this event since summer of last year but since DOH and DepEd would not allow social gatherings anymore and the suspension of events have been posted by all of the organizers, the school have also followed the guidelines and sent their athletes home instead. Holy Child is also set to represent the Davao Region for the National Championship of the National Basketball Training Center League in SM Mall of Asia. The suspension of outside leagues also affected internal events of the school such as the closing ceremony of the Red Eagles Cup Season 1 and the Personnel’s Red Eagles Cup Plus, originally scheduled on March 20 and 21 respectively.

Unchartered Territories

The biggest challenges arguably lay ahead, with the practices being suspended and events looming as most of the athletes, sporting staff and coaches are at home. There are many obvious reasons for the caution, as SARS-COV-2 virus can easily be transmitted between large numbers of people congregated in close proximity to one another.

In short, Sports, in general, is encountering challenges that are unique and have never been encountered before. Unlike natural disasters where venues can easily be switched or changed, this COVID-19 challenge is very different. It is attacking not just the spectators and players but also the heart of the experience of mass sporting events. The protection of the public is paramount importance, and should be, but sports authorities are acutely aware of the significant costs that are likely to be incurred by this major disruption to this year’s calendar as the aftermath of this pandemic is yet to be seen.

Coach Koii Canarias - Sports Designate of Holy Child College of Davao, Coach  Noli Ayo - Athletics Director of Ateneo de Davao University and Ms Geraldine Bernardo from the Sports Management Council of the Philippines are among other sports leaders who went online to  meet and discuss the effects of COVID-19 to the Philippine Sporting scene and how to create programs that will adapt to this present crisis. 

The surge of the COVID-19 disease exposed a very big loophole to the present sporting programs and got sports leaders to think how to manage their respective teams in this time of global crisis. The teams will need to create alternative plans and programs that will be adapting to this new social trend and with less actual interactions. For the foreseeable future, decisions that will be made today may well be the “new normal” for the sporting world.

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