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Sport – and the deafening absence of it – in the time of COVID-19

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By JAMIE ALTER 

It is a sobering, as well as disconcerting, thought to imagine that we will not see live sport as we known it in the rest of 2020. Equally tricky is to sit down and look into the uncertain future – during the most uncertain times in this lifetime, at least – and wonder in what form live sport will return, and when.

The world has been shaken to its core by the coronavirus, and sport has become irrelevant.

There is talk of sport across the globe being played indoors, in empty stadiums. But the likelier truth is that we will not see sport being played until there is a vaccine for COVID-19. Allow that thought to settle in. Yes, it stings, but we are in the midst of a pandemic the likes of which have not been seen for 80 years.

It may take many months, perhaps even a year, until a vaccine for COVID-19 is developed and then distributed around the world.

Sport still matters, of course. It has always been a balm; an uplifting strength in times of despair and a reason to
We all have our personal connection with sport, reasons we were drawn to a particular one, reasons we picked up a racquet or bat or hockey stick of basketball or football or table-tennis paddle. We each have our special memories of sport. Maybe it is a Tendulkar straight drive, a Viswanath square cut, a looping Bedi delivery or a cunning Bhuvneshwar in-swinger. It could be a Federer slice backhand, a Maradona turn or Di Maria foot pass, or a Jordan fadeaway. You each have your own defining memory, I know.

As we try and maneuver our way through these most testing and difficult times, as we battle doubts and fears and hold back insecurities and try to suppress anxiety, let us remember that sport can uplift us like few other elixirs. If you have followed or played sport, you know what I mean. If you are a casual viewer of sport, or someone who gets their fill from newspaper clippings or tickers on television, I don’t need to remind you of what India winning the cricket World Cup does to a nation.

We can learn plenty from sport too. It boosts physical and mental health, builds leadership qualities and communication skills, enhances self-esteem and self-confidence and plays a big role in the social, cognitive and emotional development of children.

Until sport returns, we can only fall back on our memories. We can jot down lists and best XIs, spend hours on YouTube watching cherished matches and performances and we can swap memories and anecdotes on WhatsApp. It will be a while, friend, before we get to watch our favourite sports live again, so be prepared to wait.

Your cherished sport will return again, make no mistake, but until then, hold on to those memories.

(Jamie Alter is a sports writer, journalist, author and actor).