The absence of sport during this trying time has been keenly felt by its devotees. A return of our favourite athletes to the pitch will be a step closer to normality, a stage of the recovery process. Although the fight against Covid-19 is far from over, a lot of the countries it has battled hardest have flattened the curve of infection. While this could be the first of many curves that need to be flattened – a sort of false dawn – we have to go forth with the faith that following protocol will ensure that infections don’t rise again. That is why many sporting bodies will attempt to restart competitions over the next month or so after a lengthy hiatus.
The English Premier League is aiming for a June return. Being dubbed ‘Project Restart’ by the media, the issue of relegation is one thing holding up its return. Clubs threatened by demotion, like West Ham and Brighton, allegedly oppose the idea of relegation being in place for this season as the playing field has been altered. Their objection has split opinion. Some feel like they’re speaking out of self-interest, others think that their point is fair. Broadcasters are likely to have the final say. In Germany, the Bundesliga wants to return in May but these plans haven’t gone as smoothly as hoped. First, a number of players tested positive for Covid-19. Then Salomon Kalou, veteran forward of Hertha Berlin, live-streamed the way players and staff were following protocol, which is to say that they weren’t. Probably minor hiccups for a league determined to return. Italy and Spain are also hoping to conclude their seasons, but the French top flight, Ligue 1, has been finished, as have the Dutch leagues.
In Asia, the K-League of South Korea kicks off this weekend. South Korea has coped well enough with Covid-19 that they are willing to allow teams to play each other behind closed doors. It is expected that fans will be gradually let in to attend matches as the season progresses and the number of infections continues to fall as expected. The league can expect a number of new fans watching the opening games of the campaign. Countries that have carried on playing during this time have benefitted from deals with broadcasters desperate to show live football. Belarus is the leading light in this category. The Eastern European country has been extremely blasé about the spread of the infection with no social distancing being enforced and President Alexander Lukashenko advising citizens to protect themselves by drinking vodka. We’re not sure about advice on Nicaragua’s official stance on spirit consumption but the Central American nation also continues to play football domestically.
In Zimbabwe, the latest developments suggest that football will return in August or September. ZIFA would only make a decision after consulting the government, CAF and FIFA. This could be an opportunity for the federation to align the league season schedule with that of the European leagues. The best way to keep up to date with the leagues that are still functioning is to keep an eye on Sportytrader. They offer betting previews on all of the major sporting events that you need to be aware of.