Covid-19: Indian sports leagues suffer the brunt of pandemic, most get postponed

ISL 2020-21 is the only silver lining (Image courtesy: ISL Media)
ISL 2020-21 is the only silver lining (Image courtesy: ISL Media)

With the spread of the deadly Covid-19 virus throughout the world, sporting activities have been hit the hardest this year. The Tokyo Olympics, for which athletes have been preparing for years, got rescheduled to July next year. Europe's mega football competition, UEFA Euro 2020, got postponed till 2021.

Even as some tournaments could be staged behind closed doors in other parts of the world, the situation remained dire in India. The country has recorded around 94 lakh Covid-19 cases so far with more than 40,000 fresh cases still being recorded every day. It is the second-worst Covid-19 hit country globally, right after the USA. Even though the Covid-19 situation has slightly improved, it is still not safe enough to conduct large-scale tournaments all over the country.

Under these circumstances, sports leagues in India have been the worst-affected by Covid-19. The leagues have been instrumental in unearthing some great talents for the last few years as India aims to become a sporting powerhouse.

PKL to be held next year due to Covid-19 pandemic

The Pro Kabaddi League (PKL), for instance, has seen seven highly successful seasons and has unearthed some of the best kabaddi talents in the country. Had it not been for the league, some of these kabaddi players would have forever remained in the shadows. The league gave them a platform to demonstrate their talent in front of the world, and they gave us some spectacular performances.

But the eighth season of the Pro Kabaddi League had to be postponed, much to the disappointment of kabaddi lovers in India. The PKL announced today on their social media handles that they did not deem it safe to conduct an indoor contact sport event and promised to come back next year.

PBL shifted to 2021 due to Covid-19

The Premier Badminton League (PBL) too suffered the same fate. The PBL gives badminton fans a priceless opportunity to see some of the national and international stars up close. The fact that it is usually held in at least three or four cities across India helps in increasing the popularity of the sport.

But the sixth season of the PBL had to be postponed from its original December schedule. International travel restrictions played a major role in the decision.

The PBL organizers have announced that they are working out fresh dates and hope to conduct the tournament early next year.

UTT gets postponed due to Covid-19

The Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI) and Ultimate Table Tennis (UTT) promoters also jointly announced that they do not find it feasible to hold the fourth edition of the UTT this year. Keeping in mind the health and safety of players, they reached mutual consensus to defer the table tennis league to next year.

The league has brought some of the most eminent paddlers to India and pushed the sport to an unprecedented high. With India clinching triple gold in the sport at the last Commonwealth Games, there was a renewed interest in table tennis. And Ultimate Table Tennis capitalized on it to give the sport a bigger platform.

However, the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic disrupted the continuation of the league, and UTT and TTFI are now trying to identify a window at the earliest next year.

"We have been very keen for table tennis to resume, however there are various issues to be considered and addressed. And under such circumstances, conducting UTT with the presence of foreign players doesn't seem feasible. However, we are really looking forward to the fourth season of the League in 2021. We will identify a window to conduct UTT at the earliest next year, with the situation surrounding the pandemic also hopefully improving," TTFI General Secretary MP Singh said.

Covid-19 forces IPL to be held in UAE

Mumbai Indians celebrate winning IPL13
Mumbai Indians celebrate winning IPL13

Uncertainty had hovered around the hosting of the 13th edition of India's beloved cricket league, the Indian Premier League (IPL) as well. The tournament, which was originally scheduled to commence on March 29, was at first suspended until April 15. With the Covid-19 lockdown starting in India, the IPL was suspended indefinitely with the BCCI later on announcing fresh dates for the tournament to be held in UAE.

The IPL 13 was eventually conducted between September 19 and November 10 with Mumbai Indians emerging the victors for the fifth time.

ISL becomes first major sports event to be held in India amidst Covid-19

The only silver lining amidst all this has been the start of the Indian Super League (ISL) — India's top-flight football league. The seventh edition of the ISL, which kicked off on November 20, is the first major sports event to be held in India amidst the pandemic.

But the ISL too had to follow strict rules and regulations in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. The entire tournament is being held in a bio-bubble ecosystem without spectators across three stadiums in the state of Goa (Tilak Maidan, GMC Stadium, and Fatorda Stadium).

The ISL has given Indian sports fans a new lease of life after several sports-starved months. After a long time, high-level sports action is finally back in the country.

These are the first baby steps as we crawl back to normalcy. Let us hope this will pave the way for more tournaments to be held in India as the country looks to become Covid-19 free.

Edited by Deepit Magee
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