The last few days have been tough periods for sports around the world. Since the global pandemic – Coronavirus – took an even deadlier dimension, ravaging households and entire communities across dozens of countries around the world, a growing number of sporting events have been cancelled while scores more have been allowed to go ahead in completely empty venues. This is in an attempt to reduce the spread of the ruthless virus that has killed more than 4,000 persons in over 70 countries.
For instance, on Thursday the National Basketball Association in the United States announced that all matches will be suspended until further notice, after Utah Jazz player, Rudy Gobert, tested positive to the virus.
Shortly afterwards, the National Hockey League and Major League Soccer both in the United States, announced the stoppage of their respective seasons due to the outbreak and spread of Coronavirus.
In Europe where football is almost like a tradition and in fact a religion, the virus has caused unprecedented damage, forcing major matches to be staged in empty venues and in some occasions completely suspended.
On Friday, the Union of European Football Association suspended all Champions League and Europa League matches billed for next week over the Coronavirus outbreak.
On the same day, the English Premier League suspended all fixtures until April 4 after Arsenal Football Club manager, Mikel Arteta, and Chelsea winger, Callum Hudson-Odoi, both tested positive to Coronavirus.
Despite the attendant loss in revenue for sports federations and professional clubs in places where games had been played behind closed doors and or suspended, authorities had placed public safety ahead of every other consideration.
In Nigeria, the deadly virus was detected after an Italian imported it into the country on February 24, 2020.
The man, who arrived the country aboard a Turkish Airlines flight, visited Ogun and Lagos and had contact with several persons, increasing the possibility of a further spread of the virus in the country.
Though health authorities have been working to ensure Coronavirus does not spread further in Nigeria, the fears remain valid.
During visits to some Nigerian Premier Leagues match venues last weekend by SaharaReporters correspondents to ascertain the level of precautionary measures being put in place to protect players, coaching staff and fans against the virus and other transmittable diseases, it was observed that basic protective items like hand sanitisers, hand wash, nose masks were all missing, exposing everyone at such venues to danger of being infected with all kinds of diseases.
For example, during a visit to the Agege Stadium in Lagos where the fixture between MFM FC and Enugu Rangers was played on Sunday evening, it was observed that there was no preventive measure in place at the stadium to protect players, officials and fans of both clubs.
This laxity can be observed right from the main gate of the stadium as visitors to the sports arena walked into the place without sanitising their hands or protecting themselves in any way.
Officials searched fans trooping into the stadium with bare hands, exposing themselves and even visitors to all kinds of germs and transmittable diseases.
At the ticket section stationed outside the stadium, it was also observed that sale attendants lacked protective gears and went about their assignments as usual without recourse to the deadly virus currently ravaging many parts of the world especially places where people gathered in large numbers.
Speaking with SaharaReporters shortly after the match between MFM FC and Enugu Rangers, Akinola Oriyomi, Manager of Agege Stadium, said that the absence of hand sanitisers at the venue was because the government was yet to provide it.
“My work is to make the stadium clean and I am doing that.
“About hand sanitisers, I don’t think it’s my work to provide them to the stadium for spectators.
“I'm a civil servant, I can't use my money to buy hand sanitisers for people coming into the stadium.
“The government has to provide it, when they do, it would be made available for spectators to use.”
It was the same situation in Akure, Ondo State, when SaharaReporters visited the stadium in the city to observe the match between Sunshine stars of Akure and Abia Warriors last Sunday evening.
Management of the Akure Stadium failed to put precautionary measures in place to protect both players and spectators against Coronavirus during the encounter as observed by our correspondent.
At the front of the two gates leading into the stadium, it was observed that no hand sanitiser was put place while other safety measures to prevent spectators from contracting the disease were also absent.
A military personnel stationed at the gate of the stadium was seen checking pockets and bags of fans entering the stadium to watch the match with bare hands.
At the ticketing office of the stadium, it was also observed that the attendants were not protected nor guided by any safety kits as some of them even shook hands freely with fans going in to watch the match – thus increasing the chances of the spread of the deadly virus.
Our correspondent also noticed that no ambulance or other medical equipment where in place to attend to emergency cases inside the stadium in case any such situation.
The situation was not also different at the swimming pool section of the stadium where children were seen swimming and playing around without any precautionary measure in place.
Like in other sections of the facility visited, there are no hand sanitisers, hand wash and nose masks in place at this area.
The rot at the Akure Stadium was further confirmed when our correspondent visited the toilets and bathrooms inside the facility.
Apart from the offensive odour permeating that section of the sports arena, the presence of maggots and other crawling creatures spoke volumes of how unhygienic the facility was – the perfect ground for transmittable diseases like Coronavirus.
An official in the stadium, who spoke with SaharaReporters, said although the authorities of the facility were aware of the spread of the virus, they were not ready at ensuring it does not find its way into the state.
“The stadium is really crowded and we hardly know who is who but there is no protective measures in place.
“God forbid that Coronavirus comes to this place, only God knows how many people would be infected because there is nothing to protect them here,” the official said.
It was the same scenario at the other match venues of the Nigerian Premier League visited by SaharaReporters correspondent on Sunday.
At some venues, basic items like first aid boxes were non-existed while ambulances to ferry players, officials and fans to hospital for treatment in case of medical emergencies were missing.
Interestingly, Nigeria’s Premier League is ranked 57th strongest national league in the world as at 2019 by the International Federation of Football History and Statistics.
It is the seventh strongest league in Africa behind those of Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt, Angola, South Africa and Zambia.
The Nigeria Football Federation appears helpless about the situation, sadly, raising fears of a disaster in case of further spread of the virus in the country.