March 13, 2020

Europe sneezes, Zimbabweans catch a cold

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Hanganani Nleya

The English Premier League and EFL have followed other top European football associations in postponing all fixtures until April 3 at the earliest due to the threat of the coronavirus.

The Football Association has also postponed England’s international friendly matches against Italy and Denmark, scheduled for March 27 and 31 respectively, while the FA Women’s Super League and FA Women’s Championship fixtures have also been postponed.

The measure to postpone Premier League football was agreed at an “emergency club meeting” on Friday and in light of Arsenal’s manager, Mikel Artete and Chelsea midfilder Callum Hodson- Odoi  confirming they had tested positive for the virus.

In as much as this is a positive measure in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, the news has been received with great sadness by Zimbabweans who had decided to seek solace in sports betting as a source of income as the unemployment rate and cost of living continue to soar.

Despite some managing to keep their discipline in betting, many men in the southern African country have been their own worst enemies, pushed by an unquenchable thirst to bet just one more time until the last dollar.

Determination, hope and resilience are often written on the faces of many men as they rush into the betting halls scattered around the city of Harare. The multitudes rush for football fixtures and horse race sheets for them to begin their days’ work, betting, each one of them hoping to be a lucky winner at the end of the day and put food on the table.

Sometimes referred to as gambling, folklore is told of people who stripped themselves of all their riches to feed an insatiable hunger and thirst for gambling, an unhealthy addiction, selling their belongings only to acquire money to go and bet, hoping to get more and recover the sold goods, to no avail.

In an interview with ZTN News, one local punter who chose not be named said, “this comes as a big blow to our efforts to fend for our families, as you can see things are already tough in the country.

“This decision to postpone games affects us deeply but it is for the best as the safety of everyone involved is important”.

Persistence Mwanza, a student at a local tertiary institution who is a regular at one of the local sports betting shops, said the spread of the Coronavirus is bad but the safety of sports personnel is key.

“Everyone needs to be protected from this pandemic which is spreading fast across the globe. Human life is more important than entertainment,” said Mwanza.

Several other sporting events have been cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak. In golf, the Players Championship was cancelled and the opening Grand Prix of the Formula 1 season in Australia, will not take place.

The second leg of Manchester City’s blockbuster Champions League tie against Real Madrid had already been postponed.

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