CAF suspends Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers due to coronavirus
The Confederation of African Football has suspended the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers originally scheduled for the FIFA break at the end of this month and early April until further notice due to the outbreak of the coronavirus.
This comes in the wake of the World Health Organisation declaring the outbreak as a pandemic with the number of new infections growing exponentially around the world and in spite of the African continent seeing the least number of reported cases.
Early this week, CAF had insisted that its fixtures would go ahead as scheduled, but on Friday, the body issued a statement announcing the suspension.
The statement read: “As CAF’s top priority remains the health and safety of our stakeholders (players, officials, sponsors, broadcasters, employees, etc.), we have been monitoring closely, together with our medical committee, the impact of the current coronavirus crisis and accordingly:
– Coronavirus has been declared a pandemic by WHO
– In Africa, only a few cases have been reported, but the situation could evolve negatively
– Several players, who are supposed to play the next AFCON qualifiers, come from countries which have been severely affected by the virus (Europe, Asia)
– Several African governments have taken strong restrictions on travels: lock down, quarantine for people coming from countries affected by the virus
– Several clubs refuse now to release their players for the next international matches
“For the above reasons and after studying carefully the current situation, CAF has decided to postpone the Total Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers scheduled from 25 to 31 March.”
At least six African countries had announced serious restrictions on international travel prior to CAF’s announcement.
Kenya, Tunisia, Lesotho, Madagascar, Morocco and Uganda restricted travel in and out, especially from European countries.
Cameroon went one step further to request that visa applications include a coronavirus test.
At the last count, there have been less than 200 confirmed cases on the African continent, but many governments are taking no chances.
The Italian football federation is planning to ask UEFA to postpone the 2020 European Championship so that they can complete play in Serie A by June 30.
Federation president Gabriele Gravina told Mediaset TV: “The hope is to finish by June 30. And we’ll need to insert the Champions League and Europa League also. The deadline is June 30, then we’ll eventually see if we need to exceed that.
“We’ll propose to UEFA that they postpone the Euros.”
The Euro, which takes place every four years, is scheduled to be hosted in 12 different countries in Europe, with the Stadio Olimpico in Rome slated to hold the opening match on June 12, plus three other games in the tournament.
Italy has been one of the hardest hit countries by the coronavirus pandemic, with sports around the world coming to a virtual standstill as governments look to prevent the spread of the disease.
All of Europe’s major football leagues have suspended play, as has MLS in the United States and, as of Sunday night, Liga MX in Mexico. Top U.S. sports leagues like the NBA and NHL have also suspended play and on March 12 the NCAA cancelled the annual men’s and women’s basketball tournaments.
UEFA is set to hold an emergency meeting on Tuesday, with sources telling ESPN that postponing Euro 2020 is on the table.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this story.
The Tennessee Titans have agreed on a four-year deal with Ryan Tannehill that will pay the quarterback up to $118 million, a source tells ESPN’s Jeff Darlington.
The deal, which has an average annual value of $29.5 million, includes $62 million fully guaranteed, the source told Darlington. Tannehill also will receive $91 million in total guarantees, according to Darlington. The Titans announced a multiyear extension for Tannehill on Sunday but did not disclose terms
Tannehill took to Twitter shortly before the Titans’ official announcement, saying “lets run it back.”
The reported agreement came after sources told ESPN’s Dianna Russini earlier Sunday that Tennessee was not interested in Tom Brady and was instead focusing on a deal with Tannehill. Tennessee was widely speculated as a potential free-agent destination for Brady, given the Titans’ impressive postseason run and Brady’s friendship with Titans coach Mike Vrabel.
Sunday’s agreement keeps Tannehill from becoming a free agent and means he will be Tennessee’s signal-caller for the foreseeable future.
Tannehill and the Titans eliminated Brady and the Patriots from the postseason in the AFC’s wild-card round and upset the top-seeded Baltimore Ravens in the divisional round before losing to the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game. Tannehill threw five touchdown passes and ran for a score while committing just two turnovers in Tennessee’s three postseason games.
Tannehill was named the NFL Comeback Player of the Year for 2019 after he finished last season with an NFL-high 117.5 passer rating while throwing for 2,742 yards, 22 touchdowns and six interceptions in 12 games. He completed 70.3% of his passes and averaged 9.6 yards per completion.
The No. 8 pick by the Miami Dolphins in the 2012 draft has a 49-49 record as a starter. Tennessee acquired Tannehill and a 2019 sixth-round pick from the Dolphins in exchange for a 2020 fourth-round pick and a seventh-round pick. He was named the starter after coming in to relieve Marcus Mariota in Week 6 against the Denver Broncos.
ESPN’s Turron Davenport contributed to this report.
Athletics South Africa announced on Monday that all events, from primary school up to elite level, are postponed in the wake of the government’s decision to declare a National State of Disaster due to the coronavirus pandemic.
South African president Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday night declared the new measures, effectively locking the country down at the borders, banning all gatherings over 100 people, and shutting schools till after the Easter break.
As such, all athletics events, including the Athletics Grand Prix series, where a number of Olympic hopefuls would be competing, have been postponed until at least mid-April, when a reassessment will be done.
The ASA statement read: “Under the ongoing guidance of the government on the virus, ASA will then review and give more information after the 15 April on the way forward, depending on the status of the virus in the country at the time. ASA will then make a decision on all postponed events.
“The federation has the best interest and well-being of the athletes, officials, spectators, supporters and our communities who are all our top priority.
“Athletes are urged to continue with their preparations for all their postponed events so that they are ready when they are resumed. We urge parents, coaches, principals and sports teachers to keep their athletes in training and in good condition.”
As it stands, the Olympics in Tokyo in late July are going ahead as scheduled.
Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert, the first NBA player who tested positive for COVID-19, recorded a video released by the NBA urging people to take the appropriate precautions to limit the coronavirus from spreading during the pandemic.
“It’s all about protecting yourself and the people around you,” Gobert said in the video, which the NBA released on social media Sunday afternoon. “I wish I would have took this thing more seriously, and I hope everyone else is gonna do so, because we can do it together.
“Take care and stay safe.”
Gobert was the first of three NBA players to test positive for coronavirus, prompting the suspension of the league’s season. The others were Jazz co-star Donovan Mitchell and Detroit Pistons center Christian Wood, who matched up against Gobert in Utah’s March 7 road win.
Gobert issued an apology Friday on Instagram for his “careless” actions that endangered people before he was aware that he was infected with the virus. He jokingly mocked the NBA’s temporary media restrictions, which kept reporters at least six to eight feet away from coaches and players, by intentionally touching all the microphones and recording devices in front of him after his post-shootaround availability Monday. He had a similar cavalier attitude about coronavirus precautions in the locker room, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
On Sunday, in a selfie video recorded while in isolation, Gobert said he has “been feeling a little bit better every day” before reiterating some basic actions to help limit the spread of coronavirus.
“I just want to make sure to remind you guys to keep washing your hands frequently with soap and water,” Gobert said. “Try to avoid touching your face, your nose, your eyes. And of course, try to avoid making unnecessary contact with people.”
Although next weekend’s UFC event is still up in the air, the original main event — Tyron Woodley vs. Leon Edwards — definitely will not happen.
After the UFC was forced to cancel the March 21 card in London and move it to a yet-to-be determined location in the United States, Edwards opted not to fly to America amid the spread of the coronavirus and the travel bans implemented by the United States and the United Kingdom. With no guarantee where the event would take place and no guarantee that he’d be able to get back home next week, plus, with some of his cornermen not having the proper documentation to fly at this time, the call was made for Edwards to stay home.
Edwards discussed the situation on social media.
As of right this moment, Woodley’s involvement on the card is still up in the air. The UFC insists on putting on this event next weekend, though it has yet to tell fighters where it will take place. Tribal lands in California and Alabama have been discussed, but nothing has been decided. If a promotion holds an event on tribal land, it doesn’t have to adhere to the rules of a state commission, so it would, in theory, prove to be easier to put on the event.
The UFC is working on building a brand-new card for next Saturday because the majority of the fighters scheduled to compete on the London card are based overseas and are unable to fly to America at this time.
Early Sunday morning, the UFC sent this message to MMA managers and representatives:
“Because we are moving this event to the U.S. next weekend, there will be a number of open spots on that card. If you have anyone currently under UFC contract, from bantamweight to welterweight, who wants a short notice fight, please let me know. If you have any UFC vets or fighters ready for UFC on a week’s notice, please let me know. DO NOT email me about anyone who is not a US CITIZEN or does not have A CURRENT P1 VISA.”
The Woodley fight was a massive opportunity for Edwards to assert himself as the top contender in the welterweight division. He has won eight in a row, and Woodley is the former champion at 170 pounds.
Wayne Rooney has criticised the government, the Premier League and Football Association for treating footballers like “guinea pigs” over the coronavirus outbreak.
The league planned to go ahead with fixtures before suspending the competition until April 3 after Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta and Chelsea winger Callum Hudson-Odoi tested positive for the virus, while Leicester City said players had shown symptoms.
The English Football League also suspended the Championship, League 1 and League 2 but Rooney said he was disappointed the decision took so long.
“Thankfully football made the right call in the end,” he wrote in the Sunday Times. “We had to put the season on hold.
“But why did we wait until Friday? Why did it take Mikel Arteta to get ill for the game in England to do the right thing? For players, staff and their families it has been a worrying week — one in which you felt a lack of leadership from the government and from the FA and Premier League.
“It felt typical of the way things are done in football. That Leicester aren’t a big enough team to cause any chaos, it’s fine, we carry on. Then as soon as one of the bigger clubs — Arsenal — are affected, we finally make a decision. It felt like we were trying to limp along, keep football going, instead of getting everyone prepared for what’s going to come.
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“After the emergency meeting, at last the right decision was made — until then it almost felt like footballers in England were being treated like guinea pigs. The rest of sport — tennis, Formula One, rugby, golf, football in other countries — was closing down and we were being told to carry on. I think a lot of footballers were wondering, ‘Is it something to do with money being involved in this?'”
The decision to postpone English football came after the Champions League, Europa League and Serie A announced suspensions.
Sources have told ESPN that UEFA is considering cancelling Euro 2020 this summer due to the outbreak and Rooney said footballers would be in agreement with the decision.
“From a players’ point of view, if the season has to finish in June, finish in June — the Euros will be cancelled, 100%,” he added.
“We’re happy to play until September if the season extends to then, if that’s how it has to be. That’s our job. As long as we know we’re safe to play and it’s a safe environment for spectators, we’ll play.
“The next World Cup is in November and December 2022, so you could actually use this situation as an opportunity and say we’re going to finish the 2019-20 season later this year, then prepare for 2022 by having the next two seasons starting in winter. There are different things the game can look at.”