Football During a Pandemic – The Last Holdouts Against Coronavirus

As the global game and world at large has come to an effective standstill during the outbreak of the coronovirus pandemic, the current coronavirus football situation has led the football community to slowly come to terms with dealing with the effects of it. From closed door games, to cancellations, to dealing with the financial impact to clubs and players… day by day, measures are updated to best manage the situation for all involved.

 

However, in a limited number of countries, not all has come to a stop. It is a situation that is ever changing, but game of football has not come to a complete stop, with the flame of the game been kept lit in it’s last remaining outposts. Some such as Western Sahara football are always under trying times, in the current coronavirius football landscape, some as Turkey and Australia held on until cancellations were unavoidable, while in other corners or the globe, the games continue.

 

Current Leagues


Belarus Belarus

The most consistent of these has been the Belorussian league, maintaining a full schedule behind closed doors from their March season start, including Champions League regulars BATA Borisov.

However as the BBC reports there is growing pressure from supporter groups to boycott games, in spite of president Lukashenko’s resistance to disruption at this time, though no cancellations seem to be on the horizon in Belarus. Despite this, Fifpro and it’s general secretary Jonas Baer-Hoffmann have condemned the continuation of the league, saying,

“It is frankly not comprehendible how this could be going on”

On the field however, the surprise of the early stages has been two defeats from two for BATE. This leaves BATE to sit level bottom of the table. At the top 4 teams have made perfect starts with Minsk and Energetyk-BGU level on top on goal difference as the early pacemakers.

BelarusSlavia Mazyr v BATE

BelarusMinsk Derby

BelarusNeman v Vitebsk

­čçž­čçżBelarus League Table
# Team MP W D L F A G P
1 Shakhtyor 17 9 6 2 29 9 +20 33
2 BATE 17 9 4 4 30 18 +12 31
3 Neman Grodno 16 9 3 4 22 13 +9 30
4 Energetyk-BGU 17 9 2 6 24 23 +1 29
5 Dinamo Brest 16 8 2 6 31 20 +11 26
6 Dinamo Minsk 17 8 2 7 21 13 +8 26
7 Torpedo BelAZ 17 7 5 5 21 20 +1 26
8 Ruh Brest 17 6 7 4 23 14 +9 25
9 Isloch 17 7 2 8 19 23 -4 23
10 Vitebsk 17 5 8 4 17 18 -1 23
11 Slavia 17 6 4 7 21 29 -8 22
12 Slutsk 16 5 3 8 19 26 -7 18
13 Gorodeya 17 4 4 9 15 28 -13 16
14 Minsk 15 4 3 8 17 28 -11 15
15 Smolevichy-STI 16 3 5 8 20 26 -6 14
16 Belshina 17 2 4 11 14 35 -21 10

 

Nicaragua Nicaragua

The sole league continuing in the Americas is that of Nicaragua, currently in it’s Apertura phase of the 2019/20 season. However with case of Corona virus being confirmed in the county, The Guardian has reported 3rd placed Diriang├ęn has expressed a wish to suspend the league, with fears among there players and staff of the current situation. However with government pressure to fulfill fixtures, and with their funding influence among a majority of teams in the league, no stoppage seems imminent.

In contrast there are opposers of the current situation. The league running as usual is seen as a platform for president Daniel Ortega’s domestic display of stability and normality. In this environment, he is unlikely to accept dissenting voices from clubs. Clubs have raised occasional concerns by some such as Real Madriz, but such comments are quickly retracted.

On the field Managua from the capital sit two points clear at the top of the table. They lead from Real Estel├ş, who defeated them after extra time in the 2nd of a two legged Apertura final in December.

NicaraguaReal Madriz FC v CD Ocotal

NicaraguaCD Ocotal v Real Estel├ş FC

NicaraguaJuventusFC v CDWalter Ferretti

­čç│­čç«Nicaragua Campeonato Nacional
# Team MP W D L F A G P

 

Burundi Burundi

In contrast to other countries which continue, there is a great appreciation for the scale of the Coronavirus pandemic. With just now the first two officially confirmed cases in the country, no reason has been found to cancel regular events such as church mass, or football games, though it is now in question. Also, on what current coronavirus football measures can be taken. For instance, they refused to select European based players for national duty. This whilst international fixtures were still possible and were among the first calling on CAF to suspend such fixtures.

As such, the league, as the country as a whole runs in isolation to the outside footballing community. Therefore, Aigle Noir are now certain to cede their title won last season, the first in the clubs history. With only four game weeks remaining, Le Messager have played one game extra, to sit 4 points clear from Musongati. The league now looks set to go down to the wire.

BurundiVitol’O Fc v Musongati

BurundiAthletico Academy v Aigle Noir

BurundiInter Star Vs Buja City

­čçž­čç«Burundi Premier League
# Team MP W D L F A G P

 

Turkmenistan Turkmenistan

The Turkmenistan football league calender kicked off as usual on March 6th. While K├Âpetdag Ashgabat were the dominant force post independence,recent seasons have seen success be in the hands of city rivals Altyn Asyr, winning all titles from 2014-2019. Most often runners up in this time is Ahal, based in Anau, outside the main and some 15km from the Ashgabat Stadium which they share. However yet anagain in 2020, it seems these two will be those fighting once again for the title.

*Update 1-6-20 – Thanks to the work of the people of the Russian “Other Football” news site, match footage was been captured, including full games, so be sure to check their site for the very latest updates on the 2020 ├Łokary Liga.



­čç╣­čç▓Turkmenistan League Fixtures
August 25, 2020
K├Âpetdag A┼čgabat 10:00 Energetik
August 26, 2020
Ahal 10:00 Nebit├ži
┼×agadam 10:00 A┼čgabat
August 27, 2020
Altyn Asyr 10:00 Merw
September 4, 2020
A┼čgabat 10:00 K├Âpetdag A┼čgabat
September 5, 2020
Altyn Asyr 10:00 Ahal
Nebit├ži 10:00 ┼×agadam
Merw 10:00 Energetik
September 9, 2020
K├Âpetdag A┼čgabat 10:00 Nebit├ži
Energetik 10:00 A┼čgabat
September 10, 2020
┼×agadam 10:00 Altyn Asyr
Ahal 10:00 Merw
September 14, 2020
Ahal 10:00 ┼×agadam
Merw 10:00 A┼čgabat
Nebit├ži 10:00 Energetik
September 15, 2020
Altyn Asyr 10:00 K├Âpetdag A┼čgabat
September 24, 2020
┼×agadam 10:00 Merw
Energetik 10:00 Altyn Asyr
A┼čgabat 10:00 Nebit├ži
September 25, 2020
K├Âpetdag A┼čgabat 10:00 Ahal

 

 

Leagues To Come


Tajikistan Tajikistan

A new contender to this list though will be that of Tajikistan which has confirmed it plans to play it’s season curtain raising Super Cup as planned, albeit behind closed doors. With zero local confirmed cases of Coronavirus, it has been deemed there is no coronavirus football schedule changes. On March 31st Istaravshan heavily defeated league rivals Isfara 6-0 in a pre-season friendly, signalling their intent for the campaign. This gives good preparation for their season opener against Khatlon on Sunday April 5th. However Sunday’s opening round of league fixtures will be pre-empted by the curtain raising Tajik Super Cup on Saturday with defending league/cup champions Istiqlol, playing the league runners up Hujand

Istaravshan 6-0 Isfara –@rasulovjr23

­čç╣­čç»Tajikistan League Fixtures

 

Taiwan Taiwan

The 2020 Taiwan football season will commence on April 12th. Current champions Tatung FC will look to regain their title from the 2019 season. In contrast to it’s Asian neighbours, Taiwan has been largely unaffected by the spread of Coronovirus, with life continuing as usual for locals. For the league participants, it will be the same 8 teams from the 2019 campaign. This includes Red Lions and Ming Chuan survived relegation playoffs to retain their top flight status

2020 Participants
1 Hang Yuen
2 Taipei City Tatung
3 Taichung Futuro
4 Taiwan Power Company
5 Tainan Steel
6 Hasus Taiwan Sports University
7 Taipei Red Lions
8 Ming Chuan University

Ming Chuan win playoff

­čç╣­čç╝Taiwan League Table
# Team MP W D L F A G P
1 Taipower 14 11 2 1 34 6 +28 35
2 Tatung 14 11 2 1 29 6 +23 35
3 NTCPE 14 10 0 4 32 8 +24 30
4 I Shou University 14 6 1 7 21 31 -10 19
5 Hun Sing 14 4 4 6 13 20 -7 16
6 NSTC 14 3 2 9 7 21 -14 11
7 Ming Chuan UniÔÇŽ 14 3 0 11 11 34 -23 9
8 Fubon Financial 14 2 1 11 10 31 -21 7

 

The time we now live in with coronavirus football ‘chaos’ now being the norm, is a tough adjustment. While many clubs and associations adjust for financial realities without the game, others persevere. Though it presents difficult times, the game has gone largely quiet. Some remain, but at what cost, time will tell.




Guinea Bissau Football Squad

Guinea-Bissau AFCON 2017 :Underdogs enter the Lions Den

The 2017 edition of the Africa Cup of Nations will feature Guinea-Bissau making their debut in, what looks set to be a thrilling edition with many of the perennial big hitters including Cameroon, Ghana, Egypt, Morocco and Ivory Coast challenging for the title.

It is something of a fairy-tale for the small West African country, who will be making their debut in the tournament, having first attempted to qualify for the 1994 edition. They secured their path to the tournament in the penultimate game of qualification in a thrilling 3-2 over former champions Zambia.


Despite the government dropping out from funding a pre-tournament training camp, along with last minute pay disputes and potential player strikes, a last minute player meeting with president Jose Mario Vaz has seen all outstanding bonuses up to ÔéČ23,000 per player beign paid. Despite the upheaval, the team is looking set to cause more shocks in the tournament proper.


This success has been built on team manager Paulo Torres looking to the former colonial base of Portugal to boost squad numbers with those based in Europe of Guinean extraction. There is a hope that the experience that these players have from playing at club level along with the likes of those in the victorious Portugal Euro 2016 squad will be of great benefit to the squad, as explained by team co-ordinator Caito Balde who is set to take charge of the side as Paulo Torres serves a four game ban for dissent against a referee during qualifying.

“Portugal are an inspiration to us…Many of the players in the Guinea Bissau team have played with many of those players who have now become champions of Europe. They have passed through the best training school that is Portugal and will look to show that at the Nations Cup”

Playing internationally since 1952, it has been a long footballing journey for small Guinea-Bissau. Their football association was officially founded in 1974, but had to wait until 1986 to be recognized by CAF and FIFA. Since making their competitive debut in Cup of Nations Qualifying in 1994, competitive matches have been a largely fruitless exercise for Guinea-Bissau with only four wins in qualification in their history.

Upon the draw being made for qualifying for the 2017 edition, their form looked set to continue, being drawn the the same qualification group with former winners Zambia and Congo along with Victor Wanyama’s Kenya. A total of one point with four goals conceded from the first two groups games seemed to fit this pattern. However in March, two meetings with Kenya within a week changed the completion of the group with Camara scoring in the home tie in a 1-0 win, quickly followed up four days later with Cicero scoring after 81 minutes in Kinshasa to put Guinea Bissau in uncharted territory.

The game had to be halted for some 30 minutes as a home crowd frustrated by Kenyan coach and team selections had threatened to boycott the game, with tensions spilling over in to battles with stadium police. However the West African side were able to see the game out, with qualification turning from dreams to reality. As goalkeeper Jonas Mendes told CAFOnline after the match.

ÔÇťWe now believe that we actually can (go all the way to AFCON). It is not easy but beating Kenya, a very tough team home and away gives us some sense of belief. We will now focus on the two remaining matches and give it the best we can,ÔÇŁ

This set up a dramatic fixture in June knowing a win at home to 2012 champions Zambia could see them through. In an enthralling encounter, Guinea-Bissau twice took the lead only to be twice pegged back by Zambia. Though as the game entered added time, the Guinea-Bissau players were not looking to settle for the draw, as described by Bocundji Ca.

ÔÇťEven against Zambia, we went in with the same determination as we had against Kenya,” Ca said. “We did not even consider drawing, we only wanted to win, by any means. It was the first opportunity in our history to qualify for AFCON, so we knew we could not miss it.ÔÇŁ

In a seminal moment for football in Guinea-Bissau Toni Silva came up with a late, late winner to send the Guinea Bissau faithful into dream land. As Ca continued,

“The result meant more than football to the country”

Drawn to a group featuring the hosts Gabon, 2013 finalists Burkina Faso and African heavyweights and four time winners Cameroon, Guinea-Bissau will have their work cut out to produce further heroics. However, the side will be hopeful based on the progress in qualifying and will be sure to have the full support of the nation behind them as their footballing odyssey continues.

 

Guinea Bissau Squad AFCON Squad

Goalkeepers: Rui Dabo (Cova da Piedade), Papa Masse Mbaye Fall (Orellana Costa Dulce), Jonas Mendes (Salgueiros)

Defenders: Mamadu Cande (Tondela), Tomas dabo (Arouca), Eridson (Freamunde), Emmanuel Mendy, Rudinilson Silva (both unattached), Agostinho Soares (Sporting Covilha), Juary Soares (Mafra)

Midfielders: Bocundji Ca (unattached), Idrissa Camara (Avellino), Francisco Junior (Stromsgodset), Nani (Felgueiras), Piqueti (Sporting Braga), Sana (Academica Viseu), Toni Silva, Zezinho (both Levadiakos)

Strikers: Aldair (Olhanense), Abel Camara (Belenenses), João Mario (Chaves), Fredric Mendy (Ulsan Hyundai), Sami (Akhisar Belediyespor)