Experts across various sports disciplines believe that Coronavirus’s long-term impact will be different for each sport, ranging from individual sports like shooting or golf to team sports like football and cricket, to contact sports like kabaddi or wrestling.
On Tuesday, the Sports Ministers of 18 states and union territories briefed Union Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju about their plans of figuring out a way forward to resume sporting activities amid the second phase of unlocking. In the two-day virtual meeting, the state ministers appreciated the center’s measures to promote grass-root level sports and Olympic-level trainings in every state.
Since mid-March, national camps which had been called off due to nationwide lockdown have restarted for athletes and weightlifters. Those for boxers will resume during the coming weeks following strict health safety measures.
The Khelo India State Center of Excellence (KISCE) in each state and the ‘One State One Sport’ initiative have been accepted in stride by the state ministers who are keen to adopt one sport in which the respective state is traditionally strong, to acquire assistance and funds for the upliftment of that particular sport and grooming of the players with world-class facilities.
According to the data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, the Coronavirus outbreak has much affected the arena of contact sports, leading to their cancelation or postponing. The world boxing heavyweight title contenders Briton Anthony Joshua and Bulgaria’s Kubrat Pulev, have their scheduled fight postponed till the end of the year.
Tokyo Olympics boxing qualifiers for Asia and Oceania have been moved to Jordan from China, while Europe and America have been suspended.
In the case of basketball, the 2019-20 Euro League And Euro Cup got canceled. The National Basketball Association (NBA), American men’s professional basketball league, had previously suspended its season after a Utah Jazz player contracted the virus. However, recently an announcement was made to begin from July 30, but the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) draft will be a virtual event this year following social distancing norms.
Major rugby tournaments like World Rugby, Six Nations matches got postponed. Asian Olympic qualifiers for wrestling were moved to Kyrgyzstan from China, but later Kyrgyzstan withdrew as host. The Japan Sumo Association had also postponed and rescheduled major sumo tournaments like Ryogoku Kokugikan in the wake of the pandemic.
However, certain football tournaments like the English Premier League, Spanish La Liga, Bundesliga have resumed behind closed doors, major events like Copa America, Euro 2020 have been postponed till 2021.
Experts’ Take on Contact Sports:
The health and fitness industries are thriving on digital platforms, but the scenario is more complicated and challenging for contact sports.
Olympics Bronze mproblemYogeshwar Dutt argues, “Kushti is a game where you just cannot do without a training partner. The problem wrestlers face now is not having access to training on the mat. What is the use of washing hands after every few minutes in sports like wrestling when a competition is on? We have to touch the opponent, also try to pin him or her down.”
Nevertheless, Chhote Lal Yadav, the Coach of 6-time World Champion Mary Kom, holds a positive outlook. He shares that the Boxing Federation of India has guided them to train and monitor athletes online regularly. “The effort is to maintain the physical and mental fitness of the sportsperson… its now every player’s own decision.” Mary Kom prefers family time during the lockdown, but her training is carried out through online regularly.
Senior Sports Physiotherapist Munesh Kumar differs from this idea. He points out that video consultation does not always work for contact sports, as physiotherapy cannot be performed online. Contact sports can be exhausting, and the players require proper exercises, relaxing, and training schedules with their trainers.
Secretary-General of Boxing Federation of India, Jay Kowli, said that in a conference with the sports minister, the administration has decided to resume camp training in a controlled manner while adhering to strict rules, keeping in mind the safety requirements of the players. They have managed to train 483 boxers online.
He believes, “At this moment, the future of contact sports is worrisome, but we need to put the right plans in place for their reopening.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has laid down a detailed set of procedures to be adopted by sports organizations to ensure a secure environment for the players, coaches, families, and communities. It stresses assessing the risk factors of physical closeness and the amount of exposure time when physical exertion would project droplets, thereby spreading the virus.
CDC urges players and coaches to focus on individual skill building instead of competition, limiting the time spent close with other players, minimizing equipment sharing like protective gear, bats, balls, racquets, mats, etc., and restricting the participation of more vulnerable players like young children.
Nevertheless, Olympics wrestler Bajrang Punia sees the situation in a positive light as it has provided the scope for addressing individual weaknesses, rectify flaws, with upon personal strengths, and combat worse situations with patience and hard work. As the world gradually heads towards normalcy, contact sports could be resumed once the opportunity is favorable.