By Augustine Akhilomen
The confirmation of an index case of coronavirus in Lagos State by the Health Minister, Dr. Osagie Ehanire on Friday sent shock waves across Nigeria and sports-loving fans are not left out either.
Nigeria has become the third African nation to be affected by the disease, after Egypt and Algeria, with the index case, an Italian based in Ogun State, said to be under isolation at a Lagos facility since Thursday night.
The virus, codenamed Covid-19 which has its birth home in Wuhan, China, has become a global epidemic, having affected 53 countries and infected 83,000 people, with over 2,800 death cases been reported.
It is understood that the novel coronavirus causes pneumonia, with symptoms such as fever, coughs, and difficulty breathing apparently.
In severe cases, the coronavirus can lead to hospitalization or even death.
The spread of coronavirus around the world has impacted the staging of sporting events in other parts of the world and Nigeria may possibly not be an exemption.
In a matter of weeks (March 20 precisely), Edo State will be hosting the Sports Festival and is expected to welcome hosts of contingents or athletes from 31 States for the games.
The festival which also attracts supporters could be suspended for fear of a possible spread of the virus through various contact sports.
Besides, the Super Eagles 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Sierra Leone in Asaba, Delta State slated for March 27, could be put off or be played behind closed doors for the same reason.
Former Super Eagles goalkeeper and Atlanta Olympic gold medalist, Dosu Joseph has revealed that the confirmation of coronavirus virus in Nigeria could have a negative effect on sports and football most especially.
He said that the Super Eagles AFCON qualifier against Sierra Leone in Asaba could be postponed or played behind the closed door.
The three-time African champions are top of Group L with six points after overcoming the Squirrels of Benin and Crocodiles of Lesotho respectively.
The Covid-19 could force some Africa countries not to honour any international sporting event in Nigeria due to the confirmation of the virus in the continent’s most populous nation.
“We have found ourselves in a tight position after the announcement of the coronavirus in Nigeria on Friday. To be frank, the coronavirus could force some football matches in Nigeria to be postponed most especially the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations qualifier between the Super Eagles and Sierra Leone in Asaba, Delta State,” Dosu told Thepleddge.com.
“I won’t be surprised if the NPFL is also postponed if the cases become serious in the country. But as it is at the moment, the health of Nigerians and our players must come first,” Dosu said.
In the same vein, the ongoing Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) could also come under threat with the known fact that the race for the title is still on.
Besides, the Athletic Federation of Nigeria (AFN) may be forced to cancel the forthcoming camping ahead of the World Indoor Athletics Championship taking place in Nanjing, China from the 13th to 15th March 2020.
The Technical Director of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria, Sunday Adeleye, has revealed that the spread of the Coronavirus in China and other countries has affected sports generally.
He said that some of the athletics events in the country has been suspended in order to protect the interest of the athletes.
“At this point in time, it is worrisome to know that the confirmation of the Coronavirus in Nigeria will have a negative effect on Sports and athletics most especially,” Adeleye told Thepledge.com.
“Like you know, we are supposed to attend the World Indoor Championship in China, but due to the outbreak, the championship has been canceled by the organizers in order to protect the interest of the athletes and avoid the spread of the virus.
“We are taking every necessary step to ensure that our athletes are not exposed to the Covid-19 and we are also following the advice of the World Health Organization and the Federal Ministry of Health in Nigeria on the way how to prevent the virus. We just pray that everything will be put under control.”
Nigeria may not be alone in this fear. With the Euro 2020, Tokyo Olympic Games, 2020 FIFA World Cup qualifiers, European Club Games to mention a few, there are fears the Covid-19 may take a serious toll on football and sports generally.