A significant reduction in the number of athletes that will be allowed to compete is among major changes set to be introduced at the 2021 GraceKennedy/ISSA Boys and Girls Championships scheduled for March 23 to 27, 2021.

Alternative dates of May 4-8 have also been set for the 110-year-old championships, should there be Covid-19-related spikes during the period. The 2020 championships were cancelled because of the pandemic.

Among major changes announced by the Inter-Secondary School Sports Association that are coming for the championships is that because of the restrictions, fewer than 1000 athletes will be able to participate. This is down from the more than 2400 athletes that are usually on show.

What this means is that for events like the sprints (100,200 and 400) only 32 athletes will be allowed to enter and will be comprised of the top-two regional athletes and the next best 24.

Meanwhile, only 24 will be eligible to compete in the hurdles and 800m events. The 1500m will only have 16.

However, the decathlon and heptathlon events will have the usual number of entries but only the top 12 from the field events will be allowed.

 

The Covid-19 virus continues to sweep through the Reggae Boyz camp in Saudi Arabia as the the Jamaica Football Federation is reporting that a member of the administrative staff has tested positive for the virus.

Two members of the Jamaica’s football delegation currently in Saudi Arabia have tested positive for Covid-19 following PCR tests administered on Thursday. This includes one player and a member of the technical staff.

Two other players are under investigation.

All four, who had been in quarantine for 48 hours with the full group, have now been isolated and the protocols, set by the Saudi Arabia Football Federation (SAFF), are expected to be put into effect. 

The protocols dictate that all confirmed cases - either symptomatic or a-symptomatic - will be isolated in the same hotel on a different wing or section away from the bulk of the rest of the team. Based on medical advice, possible isolation in a different hotel or medical facility is not ruled out.

If a patient is asymptomatic then he or she will be constantly assessed by the JFF Head Doctor and the patient will be allowed to travel after a negative PCR test or based on a medical assessment and local authority health protocol.

If the patient shows symptoms of Covid-19 and requires further medical care he or she will be transferred to a designated hospital. Any confirmed case has to be retested after three days of the disappearance of the last symptom to assess his or eligibility for travel.

The Jamaican delegation is now in Saudi Arabia preparing to play two International Friendlies against the host on November 14 and 17.

Cricket West Indies CEO Johnny Grave said he is especially disappointed with the West Indies who breached New Zealand’s strict Covid-19 protocols earlier this week, is that they arguably are the most experienced dealing with being in isolation since the return of competitive cricket.

Grave also hinted at the possibility of individual sanctions facing as many as four or five players who are alleged to have been involved and said there were plans to interview all the players and personnel who would have information salient to an investigation into the matter.

In a statement Tuesday night, CWI said it had launched an investigation to the reports that several players had breached protocols and as a result had been banned from training for the final two days of isolation.

New Zealand’s Ministry of Health reported that members of the team were confirmed to have repeatedly broken isolation rules. Many of the incidents were captured on close circuit television and have been reported by staff at the facility where the players are being housed.

New Zealand cricket said the incidents included some players compromising bubble integrity by sharing food, and socializing in hallways. However, there is no evidence that any members of the touring party left the facility, or that any unauthorized persons accessed it.

An embarrassed Grave speaking to media on a Zoom call expressed his disappointment at the situation while supporting the sanctions imposed on the players.

“I think my disappointment is mainly the fact that our players are probably the most experienced players in the world in dealing with these strict quarantine measures. I am not, for any second, saying that they’re easy and living in them day in and day out is obviously a massive challenge. It’s still not natural for people to always wear a mask and always do things we have been trained to do for so many years, living our lives in the way we have before Covid,’ he said.

“But these players, the majority of them have been in a seven-week quarantine isolation bubble for the duration of the England men’s tour that we held in June and July. They all pretty much went to Trinidad and Tobago, which had a very similar situation to New Zealand with its borders fully shut with the government dispensation to allow us to host the Caribbean Premier League, and they have been within that facility in Christchurch for virtually the whole quarantine period. So its hugely disappointing that players who knew what the protocols were have clearly broken them by mixing together.”

He said their actions have put the tour and the New Zealand population at risk.

Cricket West Indies have launched an international investigation into the circumstances under which members of the Windies touring party breached strict COVID-19 protocols within the team’s Managed Isolation Facility in Christchurch.

The breach has resulted in the team members being unable to train for their final days of isolation prior to their continued preparations for the upcoming T20 series that begin on November 27.

According to reports from New Zealand, NZ Cricket said it found out on Tuesday that some members of the West Indies team had "contravened protocols" within the managed isolation facility in Christchurch.

"These incidents included some players compromising bubble integrity by sharing food, and socializing in hallways,” New Zealand Cricket said.

However, there is no evidence that any members of the touring party left the facility, or that any unauthorized persons accessed it, reports said.

CWI said the New Zealand Ministry of Health advised them that all members of the West Indies touring party will now be unable to train for the remainder of the quarantine period and will have to complete their quarantine within the Managed Isolation Facility only.

“CWI is in full support of the New Zealand Ministry of Health’s position,” CWI said in a statement.

“From the information we have received so far, we have been told that the incidents in question included some players compromising the bubble integrity by mixing between two separate West Indies bubbles into which the touring party had been split.”

Ahead of the tour to New Zealand, the West Indies touring party all returned two negative COVID-19 tests before leaving the Caribbean, and underwent two further tests since they have been in New Zealand. All results were negative.

The players underwent their final scheduled tests yesterday and, results permitting, are scheduled to leave the Managed Isolation Facility on Friday to travel to Queenstown ahead of two warm-up matches against New Zealand “A”.

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! 

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