These are no ordinary times. The world has shut down and there is no telling when or if we would ever return to the world we once knew. Everything has changed and one would be living in a fool’s paradise to deny the obvious. In Nigeria for example, not many members of the elite community have found reasons to visit their beloved Dubai or checked into a fancy hotel in Italy to have a taste of the world-famous Italian cuisine.
The English Premier League is the world’s famous and most entertaining league. Billions across the globe follow it with hundreds of millions keeping minute by minute tab on the rhythm of events at Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and the would-be champions- Liverpool FC. Interestingly, not many have bothered to check what’s on the news regarding any of these clubs in recent times. We have actually seen that a Saturday or Sunday in March can come and go without an EPL match. Many could not have imagined in early February that a weekend would come when few people would be tuned to any of the Supersports channels broadcasting live EPL matches.
Who could have thought that a virus with Chinese origins could wipe out any mention of a football action from the TV screens? But then, here we are. When last did you read about Jose Mourinho’s spat with Pep Guardiola or an exchange between Carlo Anceloti and Frank Lampard? Even if many see a picture of Sergio Aguero or N’golo Kante in the news, few will pay attention. Right now football does not matter, the stars are inconsequential and the world can certainly do without them. That we now know for sure.
The EPL is not the only victim of the global pandemic turning the world upside down. The Spanish La Liga, the Italian Seria A, the French League 1 and all the popular leagues that kept us busy and excited (or depressed) each weekend from Portugal to Greece, South Africa To Egypt, Morroco to Ghana, USA to Mexico, all of them have since been abandoned. No one talks about any of those again. We no longer quarrel over who holds the remote to the TV on weekends with our spouses and kids, there are no more highlights to watch and no one keeps a tally of the scores of each game any further. Cristiano Ronaldo, Moh. Salah, Lionel Messi, Kyrian Mbabpe, Neymar Jnr and all the stars that dominate the round leather game from several parts of the world have not been in the news in the last three weeks. There has been no record or publishing of their interviews with any reporters and the world has moved on as if they never existed.
Football sadly joins the other popular sports like Rugby, Tennis, Formular 1, Motor GP, several other athletics events and all the other sports that dominate the global calendar each year to fade into the background. The Euro 2020 scheduled to begin in June had since been postponed till 2021, same for most other games that ought to have been taking place now or a little later.
Do you know the central message of this crisis? While many would have their individual interpretation, I am convinced that we are gradually been reminded that the we have been distracted for so long, majoring in the minors and refusing to pay attention to the things that really matter. I am not sure any movie has been premiered since mid-February, the cinema halls are empty, the runways are cold and holiday resorts are without patrons.
Now to be clear, it is very bad that this is happening; that we had to be so brutally reminded to look beyond the fleeting pleasures of life. Again it is also worth stating that this author is not an anti-social element who has no regard for sports or the other events that serve as lubricant to the long drill of life. No. On the contrary, yours sincerely is an ardent sports follower and usually looks forward to spending the weekend in front of television watching football matches, movies and distracting himself from the harsh realities of life. Since February, he has not been able to visit any of his usual joints where he shares banters and have good times with familiar faces and total strangers. So you can see, I am not a disinterested party here. I am as affected as hundreds of millions of other people in the social crises Coronavirus has created.
I am however constrained to look beyond the pain and begin to focus on the most important lessons that can be learned from times such as these. Remember, our perspectives are the real determinants of how we interpret events and react to whatever is happening around us. So we look at the positives from this while hoping and praying that the evil wind passes quickly so that we can forge ahead, mindful of the takeaways a period such as this presents us.
- Family first, family always: A sensational image of a dying man talking to his family on Skype in an Italian hospital drew tears from the eyes of many across the world. A man in his dying moment does not think about cars, mansions, bank accounts, football games, his bet slips or how things would shape up at the Olympics or who would be crowned Formular 1 Champion. He cares only about his family, his mistakes and the things he could have done right. At any point, we mustn’t wait till we are at the point of death to pay attention to our families, to forgive, show love and be there for each other. Thankfully, many people now are closer to their families more than ever before. Men who would troop to the beer parlour at the close of work each day have since abandoned their obsession. The offices have shut down and the bars have since closed their doors to patrons. Fathers now stay with their children, their wives and share family moments together. The message is simple: in the end, only your family would be there for you and with you; not your club mates, not your drinking buddies and certainly, not your colleagues in the office. Think about it and may the distilled wisdom guide our actions going forward.
- We are all responsible for the safety of the earth: The planet earth has been handed over to us by God to midwife, to dominate and rule over. However, we do not have the right to abuse and disrespect the earth as if its wellbeing does not matter. Over the last few years, the earth has been subjected to various forms of pollution and abuses. We dispose wastes without regards for the environment, we dump things into the sea; pollute the atmosphere by our industrial activities and all of the other things we engage in as we spend time on earth. We fell trees and haul them off to distant parts of the earth and take no interest in planting new ones; we do whatever we like with no form of accountability. It is easy to forget that we are mere stewards and what we have been given is only for a moment, we do not own the earth. Think about the decline in industrial pollution in the Wuhan area of China, the abandonment of crude oil by heavy consumers and the realisation that our greed was neither good for us nor for the earth. May we never miss the lesson. Responsibility has its place in the way we go about our endeavours.
- A threat anywhere is a threat everywhere: Not many paid attention when this virus reared its head in China around December last year. Many world leaders were convinced that it was a problem exclusive to the Chinese. Sadly, they read the situation very wrongly. China is central to world commerce and politics. It was not long before the crises hit Europe and then spread to America. Africa is currently feeling the hit. What if those in charge had paid attention from the get-go? Perhaps the tension could have been minimal. Unfortunately, those that were supposed to have known better and taken appropriate actions went to sleep. The shutting down of the world has become a necessary price to pay for our failures to take necessary proactive steps. The lesson us simple: complacency has no place in the world. You either get proactive or pay a steep price along the road. The choice is always clear: may we make the right ones from now on.