By Neil Leverett
- German top two tiers head into third week of restart, as Premier League now eyes June restart
- Serie A begin group training, as Spain allow sport to recommence in next fortnight
- Portugal, Norway and Russia also gear up for return as fears for Belarus suspension grow, whilst Nicaragua sets benchmark
PREMIER LEAGUE – As the Bundesliga heads into a third round of games in midweek, the Premier League, Spain and Italy look set for a June resumption.
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It scarcely seems believable that March 2020 was less than three months past, but such have been these challenging times globally, football and indeed sports in general have been forced to take a back seat to the priorities of an ailing world.
However, as the precipice of June and summer dawns across the Northern Hemisphere, a spectre of normality has returned to daily lives and with it, the offering – albeit an altered one – of the beautiful game.
Whilst the Bundesliga heads full-steam into a third week of fixtures – headlined by Tuesday’s first-ever Der Klassiker geisterspiele – the German top flight hurtles unrelentingly toward its’ aim of completing the season at the end of next month, despite the remaining threat of coronavirus in almost every walk of life.
With the eyes of the sporting world currently focused on German football’s top two tiers, June comes with it the promise of a wave of leagues resuming hostilities and though measures and tests are yet to come for all nations involved, European and World football are attempting to get the show back on a rather unstable road.
Premier League eye June resumption
It is now close to ten weeks since the Premier League joined the widespread suspension of world football on March 12, but after no less than three delays in pushing back the window for the return to action of the English top flight, there are now tentative signs that a resumption may not be far off.
With lockdown restrictions having been somewhat loosened across the UK – despite continued public dissent – the first step toward phase one has for now at least edged nearer, with players permitted to train in small groups rather than individually.
Despite an eighth Premier League player testing positive for coronavirus, a widespread screening last week found only those out of approximately 700 tested had contracted the virus.
Whilst Phase Two would then be required for the government and UK Sport to pencil in a date for the top tier to continue, Premier League chairman Richard Masters remained confident the league was suitably prepared to begin again, but as he stated to BBC Sport, admitted tests and measures had to be passed first to ensure player safety.
“We wouldn’t have taken the first step to get back to training if we weren’t convinced we had created a very safe environment for our players.
It is the first step and we have to be sure when we go to contact training we have completed those processes.”
Euro elite get green light
Though France, and the low countries have already opted to draw a red line through the current campaign, the remainder of continental Europe have been emphatic in their attempts to battle on regardless, as the threat of financial meltdown hangs looms ominously on the horizon.
Like the English football community, both Italy and Spain are treating their respective ‘Project Restart’ with similar trepidation, not least with the fact that Serie A has seen the most players of any global league to become infected by COVID-19.
It appears however, that two of the continent’s other top five leagues are now both close to a resumption of duties. Monday saw group training resume in Italy – as reported by Football Italia – whilst this Thursday could be the day the league’s immediate fate will be determined, with a date of the end of August now slated for the conclusion of the campaign.
In Iberia meanwhile, La Liga has now received clearance to begin again from June 8th after Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez made the decree over the weekend.
Spanish clubs resumed training in groups eight days ago, and are set to be preceded by the neighbouring Super Liga across the border, with the Portuguese top flight kicking off a week on Thursday.
As the wait begins in those countries most affected by COVID-19, last week saw the Estonian Meistriliiga league recommence, with Armenia, Hungary and the Czech Republic’s top tiers all having been back in action this past weekend.
Later this week a number of other competitions will resume after Serbia, Denmark, Croatia all last week elected to lift restrictions on movement allowing their respective leagues to begin.
With the Austrian Bundesliga set to go again on June 3 and Norway resuming on June 16, Russia’s Premier League then will take their turn to play in front of closed doors from June 21.
Belarus cases climb; Nuestraliga concludes
As leagues the world over eye resumption, the Belarusian Premier League meanwhile has continued in the face of growing criticism from fans in the country. However, the league’s time in the spotlight itself is now threatened also.
With cases of COVID-19 on the rise in the Eastern European nation, last week’s game against between FC Minsk and Neman Grodno became the second game to be postponed as a precaution, whilst the club began widespread testing within its’ ranks.
Following two positive tests within the Torpedo Zhodino ranks also last Thursday, fears are building for a indefinite period of suspension on the horizon. For the mean time though, the league’s directive is to continue.
Tajikistan meanwhile – who began their campaign last month – were forced to shelve the season for the near future as the first cases of coronavirus broke out in the mountainous Asian region, with the government taking rapid action to stop its’ spread.
In Central America, on the other spectrum of football’s cloudy vista, Nicaragua broke ground as the first league on the globe to fully complete their respective season since the coronavirus pandemic began. As the nation remained largely free of cases, the Nuestraliga continued through March and April, as the league play-offs ran into May.
Crowning Real Esteli as champions at both senior and youth level, Costa Rica has now taken the Latin American footballing reins having resumed their respective campaign on Tuesday. The rest of the Americas, North and South alas, remain mired in the battle to curb the spread of the disease.
Follow Britwatch Sports for the latest sporting developments during the coronavirus pandemic.
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