Two international friendlies that had been scheduled for Jamaica in the United States next month, have been cancelled because of the rise in the number of Covid-19 infections.

A difficult battle with the coronavirus has left former Concacaf boss Jack Warner in a repentant mood, insisting he would not wish the affliction on his worst enemy.

The 77-year- old former football administration turned politician, contracted the virus two weeks ago, and has been in the hospital since.  Warner is, however, reportedly in good spirits at the Couva hospital and took the time out to thank all who have wished him well for their continued support.

At one point rumous had surfaced that the politician was gravely ill and had even succumbed to the virus.

“The outpouring of love and concern by people from all walks of life really caught me by surprise and for that, I wish to say a special thanks for the caring of which I am still the recipient,” Warner said in a recent post.

“One friend text me to say “any energy you needlessly expend is directing that energy away from your healing” so I spend my days praying, seeking God’s forgiveness to those I may have wronged and living with the hope that very soon this COVID-19 will pass not only for me but for the many who continue to suffer locally and abroad.”

Warner also warned citizens to continue to be vigilant and follow the guidelines of the government.  The former member of parliament still faces extradition to the United States, where he is expected to face corruption charges related to his time in football.  

In dark and uncertain times wrought by the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic, the success of the NBA bubble has served the purpose of lodestar, as the world fumbles its way to a vague new normal.

With frequent testing and no cases recorded, it certainly seems the NBA is pulling off the Florida bubble experiment, so far.  Like so many successes, however, we know it comes at great cost.  In this case, I fear the ones picking up the tab will be the league’s stars, with no less than their mental health being the price to pay.

 For the most part, the athletes are showing exemplary discipline by sticking to the strict protocols of the biosecure experiment, but at what cost?

Generally, the world is captivated by the way COVID-19 is pushing us creatively. In this case, the Disney World bubble has allowed NBA fans to enjoy energetic, competitive in-demand games.  Basketball lovers are happy to ignore ‘strange’ aspects of the stadium for an experience closer to normal.

 I recently read an article by Men’s Journal titled, ‘The NBA’s COVID-Free Return Is About A Lot More Than Just Basketball.’ It listed the different characteristics of a game before and during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“No amount of virtual fans will stop me from noticing the sealed booths for announcers and stat keepers, the masks everywhere. At certain angles, the court seems to be floating in the black vacuum of space, and when players run to save a ball from the sideline, they disappear into the shadows and for a second I wonder if they’ve fallen into some abyss.”

However, the article went on to state, “But, while the game is going, I forget. I forget about all the strangeness and the world seems normal again. And I’m noticing less the more basketball I watch. The restart of the NBA is evidence that people can get used to anything.”

It's all fun and games to enjoy the very best aspects of the sporting endeavor, but deadly serious to ignore the mental health impact of COVID-19 on athletes.

 The COVID-19 mental health implications are an all too real effect of the pandemic.  According to the World Health Organization, it greatly increases the stress level of the population at large and has other psychological effects.

“In public mental health terms, the main psychological impact to date is elevated rates of stress or anxiety. But as new measures and impacts are introduced – especially quarantine and its effects on many people’s usual activities, routines or livelihoods – levels of loneliness, depression, harmful alcohol, and drug use, and self-harm or suicidal behaviour are also expected to rise.”

The La Clippers' Paul George experienced just such anxiety and depression facing the isolation of the NBA bubble. Though the player was a staunch advocate for creating a safe playing environment, he admitted, “but at the same time, it's rough.”

 Authenticating George’s mental state problems was the team’s coach, Doc Rivers. He opined, “This is not a normal environment, OK? It just isn't.”

It was only through conversations with the team's psychiatrist, coach, teammates, and close family members that his spirit was lifted.

 Sure, reuniting with family members in the bubble gives players some mental stability but not all players have families or even want them in an isolated environment.

 Such considerations are perfectly understandable, managing a family situation within the bubble can be a tricky affair.  For children, there is no place like home, what happens when they start getting bored? How do they cope with the situation mentally?

Families began arriving in the Orlando area last week so they could quarantine before being permitted to the bubble. Once inside, they will be subjected to the same daily coronavirus testing and mandatory wearing of masks as players and staff, which can be another stressful situation in and of itself.

 

Please share your thoughts on Twitter (@SportsMax_Carib) or in the comments section on Facebook (@SportsMax). Don’t forget to use #IAmNotAFan. Until next time!

 

Jamaica international Leon Bailey is set to miss the start of pre-season training for Bundesliga club Bayer Leverkusen, after being faced with self-isolation orders due to possible exposure to the coronavirus.

The 23-year-old winger was among several prominent Jamaican sports stars in attendance at a birthday part for track and field legend Usain Bolt.  In short clips of the event posted to various social media outlets none of the athletes seemed to be practicing social distancing or donning masks.

Questions were also raised as to whether several of the players in attendance were not in violation of the two-week mandatory quarantine regulation required for those entering the country.  Jamaica has had a recent surge in COVID cases.

On Monday, Bolt tested positive for the coronavirus forcing others at the party to isolate this week.  On Thursday Leverkusen announced that the player was stopped from leaving the island by local authorities, who insisted the player observe the quarantine period.

The club is expected to begin testing players for preseason camp on Friday, with players requiring two negative tests before joining up with the squad.

Bailey will now not return to Germany until before their first competitive match of the season in a German Cup clash against minor league club Eintracht Norderstedt on September 13.

 

Being a professional athlete means more than just what a person is capable of doing in the field of play. A pro should always be trying to improve in his or her craft, putting in the hours to maintain high levels of fitness, honing their skills, improving on their weaknesses and solidifying their strengths.

The very best ones go on to become stars and superstars while the role players ensure that playing standards remain high. We see that in the NBA, NFL, Premier League, LaLiga and other competitions that command the attention of tens of millions of people globally.

Cricket is no different.

The batsmen, who are among the best work hard to be at peak physical levels. They study the game and become masters of their sport. They undertake mental exercises that ensure that their minds remain alert, sharp for those critical moments in a competition where all the elements of their preparation come together in the execution of that decisive moment that alters the course of a match.

With all this in mind, how do some of our cricketers explain coming into the 2020 Hero CPL looking like giant blowfish?

Even with the uncertainty of the times when the pandemic is raging, there was always the possibility that the CPL would be on. The IPL, too, is also a possibility. Several of these players have contracts with franchises in the richest T20 league in the world.

So, what explains their decision to come to play looking like me after months of sitting at home stuffing my face with goodies from my kitchen? It’s embarrassing. And I am not the only one who believes this.

One former cricketer mentioned in a group of which I am a member that one of the players was as thick as Berbice mud.

The reactions on social media were equally telling.

“Cricketers here look like “Gerber Babies and Pillsbury man”, “COVID Realization: West Indies cricketers care zero about belly appearance”.

It is even more embarrassing when you see the players from other countries, who are also experiencing the pandemic, looking fit and sharp. I will take the opportunity here to heap praise upon Andre Russell, who has come in looking lean and ready. If you follow his Instagram you see the work he puts in as he prepared to compete in the CPL and later this year, the IPL.

Unfortunately, there are others who lack similar levels of commitment to professionalism.

Maybe that is why West Indies cricket struggles the way it does. It’s all about attitude and aptitude and the perception right now is that some of the region’s best players lack both.

Usain Bolt says he has not confirmed that he has COVID-19 but is in self-imposed quarantine until his test results are back.

Nationwide News reported on Monday that the eight-time Olympic gold medallist had tested positive for the Coronavirus. The news, NNN said, triggered a host of his associates and friends including football players Raheem Sterling, Leon Bailey and recording artiste Chris Martin being tested for the virus as they were in attendance at his birthday party last Friday, August 21. 

However, in a 50-second video posted on Twitter, Bolt said he heard the news regarding his positive test like everybody else; on social media despite reports that indicate that he was notified by health officials on Sunday.

“I did a test on Saturday to leave because I have work,” he said.

“Trying to be responsible so I am going to stay in and stay away from my friends and also, having no symptoms, going to quarantine myself and wait on the confirmation to see what is the protocol and how I should go about quarantining myself from Ministry of Health.”

Meantime, he is encouraging those who might have come into contact with him to be safe and enter quarantine.

More than 1500 Jamaicans have been confirmed to be infected by the virus. 116 Jamaicans were confirmed over a 24-hour period between Saturday and Sunday.

The 2020/21 ISSA Manning Cup and DaCosta Cup competitions will not be held this year as Jamaica’s Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA) has cancelled all sporting competitions that were scheduled for the Christmas term in the academic year.

Olympic legend Usain Bolt has reportedly been infected by the COVID-19 virus, according to media reports.

Nationwide radio reported on Monday that the now-retired 100m and 200m world record holder had tested positive for the virus.

Bolt, who celebrated his 34th birthday last Friday, is among the latest numbers of Jamaicans to have tested positive to the virus that has infected more than 1500 Jamaicans to date. Fifteen of those infected have died.

As the 2020 season of the CPL season bowled off today in Trinidad and Tobago, news has emerged that all 237 members of the league have returned to negative tests in the latest round of COVID-19 tests conducted on Sunday.

Get well soon Barca

August 16, 2020

All hail Bruno Fernandes! 

There hasn't been much to celebrate at Manchester United for the last few years and the success enjoyed under legendary manager Alex Ferguson is a distant memory. Despite not being a Man U fan, as a sports journalist, I award credit where it is due. The introduction of Bruno Fernandes in January has positively impacted the club. 

United boss, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, did not hesitate when heaping praises on the Portuguese for his game-changing ability. “He knows that keepers will wait for him to do the jump. He practices both of them and he practices both sides so he’s got them sorted. Better than I was anyway,”  Solskjaer said in reference to the player’s successful penalty-taking technique.

The results speak for themselves, since his debut at the club, United has not lost a game in the league, rising up the table to finish third and qualify for next season's UEFA Champions League for the first time since the 2018-19 season.  His eight league goals and seven assists demonstrate his calibre.  What is clear is that in Fernandes you have a leader, risk-taker and quality player. Man U are definitely stronger with the twenty-five-year-old. 

CPL - Hard work behind the scenes 

The Caribbean Premier League is the biggest party in sport. It brings together people from different walks of life eager to support their teams.  Being staged amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 edition is shaping up to be different in numerous ways.  Sometimes, it is easy to by-pass the immense work that occurs behind the scenes to ensure fans can enjoy the matches.  This year the job is made even more difficult with no fans in the stands and a lengthy list of COVID-19 protocols to adhere to.  Earlier this week, I interviewed Head of Digital at CPL, Vishnu Kumar, who expressed great excitement for the tournament getting underway on August 18th

  Kumar stressed the importance of ensuring that CPL puts on a great show for fans around the world amidst the pandemic.  He explained, however, that even his journey to Trinidad and Tobago was not a simple task. “Air travel at COVID-19 times is extremely challenging but our operations team worked very hard to get us on flights with great social distancing and safety protocols in place and we flew first to Barbados where we quarantined for a few days before travelling onwards to Trinidad. We took a PCR swab test before we left to ensure that we were safe to travel and also had to wear masks and maintain social distancing throughout the duration of travel," he explained.

As if the travel to T&T was not difficult enough, as the CPL team get ready for a successful and exciting tournament, they are tasked with maintaining social distancing at all times.  The head of digital explained that they are required to work in assigned bubbles to ensure the safety of the entire cohort.  This means work that would normally be done face to face is being conducted online, sometimes plagued by faulty internet connections.  

  Despite being faced with immense challenges, Kumar sees simply getting all the players to T&T safe and sound as a success in and of itself. He explained that the entire CPL team is working to ensure they cover all the bases and demand the most of themselves to ensure that CPL 2020 continues to be the biggest party in sport. 

  Get well soon Barca! 

Barcelona are set to have presidential elections in the summer of 2021, as they seek a successor to incumbent Josep Maria Bartomeu, however, it is clear more than that is required to save the club. Friday's 8-2 loss to Bayern Munich was the heaviest Barca have suffered in Europe and ends a season that has also seen them lose the La Liga title to Real Madrid.  

It is hard to imagine how long it will take Barcelona to get over the impact of ‘The 8-2’ but what I do know is things must turnaround very soon if the club is to be a competitive force again.  What is clear is that the club needs structural change, a complete overhaul.  Things have deteriorated to the extent that Messi’s exasperation has been made public several times. 

The off-field problems are so numerous that they have seeped on to the field of play, for example, confrontations between players and the board over pay cuts. Messi has called out the sporting director Eric Abidal for blaming the players over the dismissal of Valverde.  

Apart from off the field problems, Barca has not managed their signings well. They signed Philippe Coutinho, for more than 100 million pounds but mishandled him. This failure to integrate a player of his quality into the squad has backfired miserably. He is now loaned out to Bayern Munich and scored twice in the final minutes against Barca. 

    As a Barcelona fan, I can only hope the team gets its business in order very soon, keeping in mind that Messi is not getting younger. The level of dependence on the player has to stop. Get well soon Barca! 

The players and staff who are resident in Trinidad & Tobago who are coming into the CPL cohort have all tested negative for COVID-19 and will join the tournament bubble at the official hotel over the coming days.

The St Lucia Zouks squad and the members of the Trinbago Knight Riders squad, who travelled into Trinidad have tested negative for COVID-19 and they will begin training today, with other teams doing so in the coming days.

Results from further testing of all other members of the travelling cohort are expected today after a second round of testing on Monday.

“We have been extremely careful in how we have gone about introducing those who are resident in Trinidad & Tobago into the tournament bubble and these tests coming back negative is very good news for the tournament. We will continue to be vigilant to ensure the health and well-being of everyone, both inside the tournament bubble and the wider public,” said  Michael Hall, Tournament Operations Director.

The tournament gets underway on August 18 and will see 33 games played at two venues in Trinidad. The first match will be played on September 10.

 

All 162 players, administrators and officials tested negative for the coronavirus Covid-19 after they arrived in Trinidad and Tobago for the 2020 season of the Hero CPL.

Apparently fans in the Caribbean are growing impatient. They are eager to see local football players do what they love.

Well, President of the Caribbean Football Union, Randolph Harris, says fans will have to wait. I agree.

Harris is concerned about the health risks involved in a return to live football in the Caribbean and doesn’t see it happening anytime soon.

According to Harris, a lack of resources makes putting preventative measures in place difficult. I completely understand. But there are others who suggest football should return sooner than later.

Somewhere along the way COVID-19 has become less of a concern and more of a joke. Especially in the world of sports though it means increasing the odds of let’s say, dying.

I’ll give you an exampleIt was reported that a football tournament with over 800 patrons was held at the Hellshire Beach in St Catherine. Let that seep in (I’ll wait).

It irks me that many people are casually getting on with life. Reducing the spread of Covid-19 is group work and everyone needs to play their part. If fans really loved and respected the players and others, they would be more understanding about decisions concerning safety.

It’s better to be safe than sorry. We all have a role to play in reducing the spread of Covid-19. Preventative measures include (but aren’t limited to) social distancing, wearing a mask and washing our hands frequently. Let's not forget the disease has the potential to kill. We wouldn't want to lose any more loved ones or beloved athletes.

Please share your thoughts on Twitter (@SportsMax_Carib) or in the comments section on Facebook (@SportsMax). Don’t forget to use #IAmNotAFan. Until next time!

The Jamaica Anti-Doping Commission (JADCo) is set to resume testing of athletes on Monday, June 15 after a month and a half of no activity because of the threat of COVID-19.

Trinidad and Tobago Bodybuilder Dexter Simon has always defied the odds and managed to emerge victoriously.

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