Europe is going through the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and Portugal faces incredible difficulties, having entered, in January 2021, new and severe confinement. Several other European countries are in lockdown again as well, even though the vaccines give us a renewed sense of hope for eradicating this health crisis this year. Nevertheless, this time around sports isn't stopping.
What's at stake
In contrast to what happened in March 2020, when all federated competitions were suspended, this time around the leading national championship teams will continue training and competing. Still without an audience and in compliance with the health authorities guidelines, "all professional and equivalent training and competitive activities" will keep their schedule.
For now, first division national competitions are covered, such as handball, basketball, volleyball, and, in the specific case of football, the I and II Liga (both professional), the League Cup, and the Portuguese National Cup. The same goes for the top events organised by the Portuguese Football Federation, that is, the women's football I League, the Portugal Championship (equated to professional) and futsal's I Division (male and female).
The government's decree states that "the activities of high-performance athletes, national teams of the Olympic and Paralympic modalities, 1st national divisions or competitions of the corresponding competitive level of all modalities are equated with professional activities. Male and female seniors, those who participate in international championships, and the activities of athletes in adapted sports, as well as the respective technical and refereeing teams" are allowed to continue.
On the other hand, the secondary echelons and the amateur sports will once again be suspended, just like what happened with Portugal's first confinement, when all these competitions were suspended and finished for the season.
What athletes have done to adapt
Physical exercise is essential for maintaining physical and psychological health during a pandemic. In 2020, many people discovered the enormous benefits that physical activity can bring. With gyms closed, more people began practising physical activity outdoors.
It was exciting to see the professional and semi-professionals' attitude, whose sporting and adaptive spirit is proof that sports bring with it the spirit of resilience and overcoming your limits, an attitude that is then brought to everyday life. Facing many limitations to their training habits, many athletes, in their preparation for this year's Olympic games, made the most varied adaptations at home, never giving up.
A recent example is that of the 72 tennis players in confinement after four cases of Covid-19 were detected on three flights chartered by the Australian Open tennis tournament organisation. The athletes travelling to participate in the competition, which will occur from February 8 to 21, are now in confinement for 14 days, unable to leave their hotel rooms for training. In the meantime, training material was placed in the affected tennis players' rooms, so that they can practise anyway.
Adaptations online, and also in patios, houses and garages
In Covid-19 times, solidarity roared high in many people's lives. Take the Brazilian athletics coach Carlos Barbosa as an example: he started a new project for training athletes from his own house, at a distance and online, without charging anything for it.
Like Italian-Brazilian fencer Nathalie Moellhausen, a world champion, some athletes had to come up with new strategies at the beginning of the pandemic. While living in Paris, this athlete continued training all through March, April and May, at home or in open areas. She did physical training, dance, martial arts and even installed a fencing track in the courtyard, where she occasionally had the company of her trainer and some other athletes.
Patrícia Mamona, the Portuguese triple jump athlete, saw the gym and the track where she trained indoors closing down and had to find alternatives. She had a small gym built in her garage and eventually found a garden to run and jump at certain times.
Pamela Rosa, Brazilian skateboarding champion training for the new Olympic discipline, bought obstacles and adapted a small space in her garage to practise her manoeuvres. Her goal is to get to the Olympics in top shape and confirm her favouritism by winning the first gold in the history of skateboarding at the Games.
At Move Sports, we didn't give up as well: we managed to put on a great and safe rugby day and celebrate our passion for the sport by organising, this past October 2020, the Portugal Rugby Youth Festival 2020 Special Edition, while complying with all the necessary safety measures. Even without the hugs and celebrations typical of rugby, the Lisbon University Stadium came to life and got dressed up with the PRYF colours. On the pitch, we got a chance to watch a Tag Rugby demo match, a webinar filled with rugby experts which are part of the event's 12-year history, and an exciting Challenge designed to put the abilities and skills of the young rugby athletes to the test. Read all about it here.
Sports on the UN 2030 agenda
There are many other examples of athletes worldwide adapting. Sports have always helped overcome difficult times, keeping healthy and foster peace. In the 2030 Agenda, the UN General Assembly recognised sports as "an important facilitator of sustainable development", highlighting "its promotion of tolerance and respect and contributions to the empowerment of women and young people, individuals and communities".
The so-called Global Action Plan on Physical Activity 2018-2030 aims to help in this area. With the International Olympic Committee and the Organizing Committee for the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, the UN intends to raise global awareness of the Sustainable Development Goals. The Tokyo 2020 Games Sustainability Plan presents innovative solutions to address climate change while respecting human rights and fair business practices.
In this regard, the UN also works with the International Football Federation, FIFA, to promote women in leadership positions and youth sports for youth development and capacity building.
Sports, with its amazing resilience among a pandemic, is essential to society: sports is life and joy!