There were many critical situations with dangerous viruses in the world in the past decades, but it seems that none of them have impacted sporting events so much as COVID-19.
Today, LEN decided to postpone all the events until April 11th. FINA still hasn’t canceled or postponed its upcoming events, but it established a COVID-19 taskforce, which analyses the situation. FINA is very close to the decision to impose a 3-months moratorium on all events under its jurisdiction.
Let’s see how the coronavirus spread has affected the staging of water polo events around the world.
Fortunately, there are no cases of water polo players infected by COVID-19, but numerous competitions were canceled or postponed.
Asian Championships canceled
Everything started with the cancelation of the Asian Championship (the continental qualifications for the Olympic Games), that was supposed to be held in Kazakhstan in February. The Kazakhstan Aquatic Federation give up the organization of the tournament because their government suspended the issue of visas to Chinese citizens. After Kazakhstan give up, none of the other Asian countries didn’t want to host championships and the rankings at the 2018 Asian Games were used to determine the Olympic qualification.
Italy is hardly hit by the coronavirus spread. On February 24th, The Italian Swimming Federation (FIN) suspended all the events scheduled for that week (February 24th – March 1st).
A few days later, FINA postponed the Women’s Olympic Qualification Tournament in Trieste (the new dates are May 17th – 24th).
Last week, the water polo league in Italy was continued as well as the national competitions in other sports (soccer, volleyball, basketball), but with no spectators. However, on Monday, by the Decree of the President of the Council of Ministers and by the different ordinances issued by the Regions and Municipalities FIN ordered the suspension of the national events and activities of the national teams until further notice.
The Spanish League won’t be suspended, but from next weekend, all matches will be played without spectators.
The same situation is in Greece. The Greek government announced that all professional sports events for the next two weeks will be played with no public. A maximum of 60 persons can be present during the event.
Hungarian Water Polo Federation hasn’t postponed any game so far. But, by the competition calendar, determined last year, the Hungarian League for men will be continued on April 1st. The next games in the female championship are scheduled for next Saturday.
Today, the Serbian government decided to suspend all the events with more than 100 present people. It means that water polo games can be played without spectators.
Uncertain future of World League
The upcoming important water polo games are the quarterfinal matches of the Men’s World League, on March 17th: Italy-Hungary, France-Greece, Montenegro-Croatia.
The game Italy-Hungary had already been postponed.
Montenegro is the only European country that has no registred case of COVID-19. By the government’s decision, the match Montenegro-Croatia will be played in Podgorica on Tuesday without spectators. But the referee from Spain must be changed since the citizens of Spain (as well as Italy) aren’t allowed to enter Montenegro.
There is no official decision about the match France – Greece and the Women’s World League games, scheduled for March 24th (Russia – Spain and Netherlands – Greece). The encounter between the female teams of Hungary and Italy is postponed.
The whole season in the World League will be in question if FINA imposes a three-month moratorium.
Olympic qualifications in Rotterdam – in March or later?
And, finally, the most important water polo competition in March should be Men’s Qualification Tournament in Rotterdam (March 22nd – 29th). Twelve teams will take part: Montenegro, Croatia, Greece, Germany, Russia, Georgia, Romania, France, Turkey, Netherlands, Brazil and Canada.
According to the latest information from the Dutch Swimming Federation, all competitions in the Netherlands go on, except in the province of North Brabant, which isn’t near Rotterdam.
All of the twelve teams have started preparations for Rotterdam. Still, FINA has the last word.
Anyway, human lives and health are more important than any win on the sports field.