THE devastating impact of the novel COVID-19 virus to sport, in particular, and life in general has been palpable and unprecedented.
The shattering impact has hit all facets of human and socio-economic faculties in ways very few are able to understand. The numbers keep spiralling in such countries like Italy, Spain and closer home here in South Africa.
Borders have been shut, airports have been closed, churches and other faith-based organisations are in lockdown. Sports events, including the Olympic Games, have been put on ice.
It was always true that when the whole world was attacked by the tentacles of this merciless and unrelenting COVID-19 virus, we were not going to be spared either.
It is a fair comment that the Governments should put in place more robust disaster management systems to intensify prevention, while also being ready to deal with confirmed cases.
Governments are trying all they can under the prevailing economic circumstances, and continue to deploy efforts towards strengthening preventative and surveillance measures.
What is unproductive, in the wake of all this, is our relentless attack on the countries’ leadership, furious negativity and mud-slinging at a time when the whole world is looking for solutions and ways to pay a part.
We risk fighting the wrong battle. We, as a sporting and general community, need to play our role in the fight against this deadly virus, too. Sport needs to be serious about the community efforts towards mitigating the uncontrollable spread of this virus.
Some may be forgiven for viewing it as irresponsible, for instance, for netball matches and training to still be continuing under these circumstances.
For professional football clubs to still be training, sports meetings being conducted and then turning around and criticising Government for not doing enough.
Such arguments may be viewed in some quarters as self-righteously indicating left and turning right.
Elsewhere, individuals, business and sporting personalities are directly contributing towards the fight against this deadly scourge that has brought the world to a standstill.
Pep Guardiola, the Manchester City manager has donated 1 million Euros towards providing medical equipment for the fight against the coronavirus in his home country Spain.
Billionaire and philanthropist Bill Gates, and his wife Melinda (US$100 million), Alibaba founder Jack Ma (US$14.5 million) and Hong Kong’s richest man Li Ka-Shing (US$13 million), have donated towards the cause. Collectively, they have pledged over US$100 billion to various efforts to help alleviate this deadly virus. Fashion designer, Giorgio Armani, gave US$1,43 million to help fight the outbreak in Italy.
Top athletes are also helping to raise money for the COVID-19 relief. These include Stephen Curry, Shaun White, Sir Nick Faldo and Michael Phelps, among others. The creative and sports industries are carrying messages, promoting safe living and hygiene, to contain the spread of COVID-19.
Is it not time for our people to stop discharging toxicities and negative rhetoric and start doing something as communities? The sporting community is challenged to stand up and be counted by contributing towards this fight, more so for the simple reason that the longer this pandemic continues, the more sport is bound to suffer from the lockdown.
The sporting community needs to use its influence to convey messages for people to remain responsible, logical and rational all the time. This is the time when all the professional clubs, sports stars, legends and sports administrators are expected to galvanise their efforts through their magnetic social media handles towards spreading messages of hope and safe personal hygiene for the people.
Do we need the Governments to tell us to stay home and avoid risking ourselves and the nation at large?
Do we need politicians to remind us to maintain personal hygiene and to avoid creating concentration centres? Do we really have to be in the market places, and in recreational and public places? Do we even need to play sport behind closed doors? What will we be celebrating when our countries are reeling under the heavy weight of this virus?
It is time the sporting community plucks a leaf from such figures as Guardiola, who remain silent, and let their works do the talking and fighting against this coronavirus. Where are our own sporting legends and stars when others are stepping up to the plate? Is this not the time to give back to the same communities that gave you fame and fortune?
Rather than being critical of the efforts, or lack thereof, by the Government over our state of preparedness as countries, we are all challenged as a sporting community to deal with national, sub-national and local measures without illusions of the impact of this virus on our industry.
This is the time when we should see sport with a face. This is the time when all our fitness and efforts have to be directed towards restoring hope for our people and defeat this pandemic with all the resolve and sinew in our sporting anatomy. Let us all focus our energies towards saving our fragile countries’ health systems to aggressively flatten the COVID-19 curve in the shortest possible ways.