• July 12th, 2020

How coronavirus has crippled sports in Namibia…local sector on lockdown

Otniel Hembapu & 
       Maqonda Ndlovu 

The outbreak of the deadly coronavirus, which has infected more than 132,000 people globally and spread to at least 120 countries worldwide, has also severely crippled sporting events in Namibia. The pandemic is officially known as Covid-19.

Governments the world over are scrambling to stop the spread of the virus, advising against public gatherings and shaking of hands to minimise risks of contamination.

On Saturday, Namibia joined the growing list of sub-Saharan African countries to report their first cases of coronavirus after a couple from Romania who arrived in the country on Wednesday both tested positive and have been quarantined.

President Hage Geingob on Saturday announced that government would implement several strong measures to try and contain the epidemic, including banning all mass gatherings for 30 days and clamping down on inbound and outbound travel to and from Qatar, Ethiopia and Germany with immediate effect for a period of 30 days.

The head of state also announced that Namibia’s 30th independence celebrations scheduled for March 21 have been cancelled, though a swearing-in ceremony for his second term will go ahead. 
South Africa, eSwatini and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) are some but of the few countries that have reported mounting cases of coronavirus within the Southern African Development Community (SADC) bloc.

From Europe, Asia to the Americas, most countries have cancelled all sporting events indefinitely or at least until the virus and its effects has subsided globally. Italy, Europe’s worst-hit country, has cancelled all sporting events until next month and the government has put the country in lockdown as it battles the virus. 

In the Americas, activities in the Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer, the National Basketball Association and the others sport leagues have all been suspended until further notice. New seasons in the Chinese, Japanese and South Korean professional leagues have been postponed.
Like many other industries globally, sport alike have been hit hard and severely affected by the noxious coronavirus outbreak and the Namibian sporting fraternity has not been spared of the virus’ lethal blow and crippling effects.

On Saturday, one of Namibia’s most-prized boxing asset Sakaria ‘Desert Storm’ Lukas was scheduled to make his much-anticipated American debut at New York’s Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden against America’s Jessie Magdaleno in a 10-round featherweight bout but their fight along with the entire event was abruptly cancelled by Top Rank due to the coronavirus outbreak, and his dreams of conquering the American stage were shattered.

Late Friday, Top Rank chairman Bob Arum, who remained at home in Las Vegas rather than fly to New York for the event, said: “We were going to be guided by the recommendation of the athlete commission. And they consulted their medical people and were advised not to go through with these events because there is no way to adequately test the fighters. It’s as simple as that. It’s a failure to provide the proper testing for this virus. If we could test the fighters and one or two tested positive then we would eliminate their fights, same with the referee. But without testing we are operating in the dark.”

Meanwhile, AC Boxing Promotions also announced the postponement of their Rising Stars of Africa Boxing Tournament, which was slated for the first week of next month at Windhoek’s NamPower Convention Centre. 

The postponement was confirmed by the founder of AC Boxing Promotions, Immanuel Paulus.
Meanwhile, promoter Nestor Tobias of the MTC Nestor Sunshine Boxing and Fitness Academy said he would make a formal announcement today but strongly hinted that their annual Independence Boxing Bonanza that was scheduled for 28 March at the Windhoek Country Club might be called off.
“The directive from the president is very clear but I can’t give a definite answer right now because I’m engaging the international fighters that were supposed to come for the fights as well as engaging our sponsor. But tomorrow morning (today) will make a formal announcement in that regard,” said Tobias

The Confederation of African Football (CAF) and the International Federation of Association Football (Fifa) both announced on Friday cancelation of various tournaments and matches scheduled for this month and next month, indefinitely calling off all continental and partly global football activities.
 CAF postponed all 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifiers, which were scheduled to be played between 25 and 31 March due to the spread of coronavirus. The Brave Warriors of Namibia were due to face Mali in Bamako on 28 March but that match has since been scrapped.

“Several African governments have taken strong restrictions on travels; lock down, quarantine for people coming from countries affected by the virus. Several clubs refuse now to release their players for the next international matches. For the above reasons and after studying carefully the current situation, CAF has decided to postpone the Total Africa Cup of Nations 2021 qualifiers, scheduled from 25 to 31 March 2020,” read CAF’s statement on Friday.

Fifa also postponed the South American qualifying matches for the 2022 Qatar World Cup after a request from the region’s football federation (CONMEBOL) amid concerns over the spread of coronavirus. Fifa indicated that it would seek to reschedule the 10 matches that were to take place between 23 and 31 March. The world’s football governing body also agreed with the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) to postpone the Asian World Cup qualifying matches in March and June due to the outbreak.

At home, coastal friendly matches that were lined up for the Brave Warriors teams against regional select teams scheduled for Saturday afternoon were also announced by the Namibia Football Association (NFA) following President Geingob’s announcement on Saturday.
The cancelation of the matches were confirmed by the NFA Normalisation Committee’s chairperson Hilda Basson-Namundjebo, who said the cancellation came after consultations between her and NFA president-elect Ranga Haikali.

Also crippled by the pandemic is the annual The Namibian Newspaper Cup, which was slated for Oshakati between 10 and 13 April, but now faces cancellation as a result of the pandemic as well. The Namibian newspaper editor Tangeni Amupadhi said the tournament is likely to be cancelled.
“Following the announcement by the president earlier today [Saturday], I think we will follow suit and cancel this year’s tournament. The truth is everything has been postponed. I do not see us trying to defy or pretend that we live on a different planet,” he said. He noted that a formal decision has not been made but the organisers will meet soon and map the way forward. Haikali also said the postponement of the newspaper cup was imminent.

Cricket Namibia (CN) on Friday also joined the list of those affected by the coronavirus as it jointly together with the Royal Dutch Cricket Federation (KNCB) announced the cancellation of the Castle Lite Series against Netherland, which were to take place between 25 match and 1 April at Wanderers Cricket Ground in Windhoek. The teams were set to play two ODIs and four T20s.

CN’s chief executive officer Johan Muller said: “In the light of the recent updates from especially European countries, regarding the rapid blowout of the coronavirus, Cricket Namibia understands and support the decision taken by KNCB to cancel their travels to Namibia. The Castle Lite Series, as it would have been branded, was a highlight on our calendar. The Namibian public and our sponsors were extremely excited to welcome a top ranked cricket country, such as Netherlands, on home soil. We believe that once the virus is under control, we can look to reschedule this tour.”

Jaap Wals, his KNCB equivalent, added by saying: “Following government advice to curtail the spread of the coronavirus, including the increasing travel restrictions between countries, the KNCB feels there was no other option than to cancel this tour. Public and player health is of utmost importance and we are relying on public health professionals to help us navigate these difficult decisions. We would like to acknowledge the efforts by Cricket Namibia that has gone into planning the series and we are looking forward to future tours between the two nations.”

The Khomas Basketball Association (KBA) through Micheal Mabuku released a short statement saying the Independence Trophy which kicked off last week Friday has been postponed indefinitely. “Due to this unfortunate Covid-19 outbreak, KBA decided to suspend all games until further notice. Health should come first in this case,” said the statement.

What the minister is saying
Meanwhile, chief administrator of the Namibia Sports Commission (NSC), Freddy Mwiya, yesterday said the line ministry will today make a formal announcement to all local sport federations regarding government’s position to place an embargo on all sporting activities, be it local or international.
“I’m under clear instruction from the minister and the executive director of the sports ministry to communicate the government’s decision to place restrictions on all sports activities. That means no sports events will be allowed to take place until further notice. I also discourage all those planning to compete individually outside the country not to go ahead. This ban is across all sectors of sports,” said Mwiya 
– Adapted from Nampa

Otniel Hembapu
2020-03-16 07:57:40 | 3 months ago

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