Of all the current divides of opinion amongst people during the pandemic, those of sports fans vs non sports fans may appear to be the most trivial…
Sport has been coined as ‘the most important of the least important things’ by journalist and presenter Colin Murray and that seems to sum things up well.
It’s fair to say that most men are sports fans and, for many men, watching sport on TV, even with no fans in attendance has been a vital escape for them when there has been precious little else to do – especially men who live alone. This group in particular are vulnerable to mental health issues, even suicidal thoughts and this little bit of normality provides some sort of a lifeline.
I can resonate with this. Losing income, routine, not being able to see our loved ones. All of these things build up. Men are less likely to open up about their problems, although, in fairness, a great effort has been made by, for example, Sky Sports in highlighting these issues. But awareness is one thing and helping those in need is something else entirely.
On Monday 8th February, this year’s Australian Open kicks off in Melbourne, having already been delayed by two weeks due to the coronavirus.
Hundreds of competitors and coaches have been flown into Melbourne in advance which has incurred the wrath of many Australians abroad who are presently being prevented from returning to their homeland under current restrictions.
These natives and their families are naturally fuming that the tennis stars have been fast tracked entry into their country, whilst they sit in their eyes ‘abandoned’ and as yet unable to come home. It is a delicate situation for the authorities to deal with and there is no ‘win-win’ solution.
But the argument is the flights for the competitors have been separately put on to ensure that the tournament can go ahead. The point being that not only does it keeps Australia in the world’s limelight, it also ensures work for those working at the tournament or for those reporting on it. It provides crucial television viewing for sports fans around the world during the pandemic and there is a good chance that some fans will be able to attend as Australia is ahead of us in recovery terms.
And on balance, most Australians are very much pro this going ahead. Hardly surprising seeing as they are an even more sports mad than us Brits are.
The final twist in this saga, has been the ‘super quarantine’ that some of the players have had to endure due to, by sheer bad luck, a person on their flight testing positive for Covid. This has meant that these players have had to stay in their hotel rooms for 14 days, some hitting balls against the walls of their rooms to keep supple as well as remove frustration, whilst their fellow pros are allowed up to five hours of outdoor practice per day, during their 14 day quarantine period. British ladies no 2 Heather Watson is one so affected.
It’s a shame and there was never going to be a wholly level playing field, but I feel in this case, the Australian Government has had to be seen to be strict, even if the chances of any infection from one person on a flight is practically slim to none. It seems to have been grudgingly accepted.
On a personal note as a fan, when the event starts, do keep a look out for Francesca Jones. The 20 year old British player with a missing finger on each of her hands as well as missing toes, is this year’s unbelievable story. Something to inspire any youngster at any level, that anything really is possible. She has defied doctors and qualified for her first Grand Slam.
Don’t ever underestimate the power of sport.