COVID-19 cases at ESL One Singapore raise concerns over conduct of offline eSports events

Despite strict measures being taken and the fact that Singapore was able to host a closed-doors event successfully, there are problems that need to be addressed as far as offline events go.

Anand Krishnaswamy March 31, 2021 12:37:11 IST
COVID-19 cases at ESL One Singapore raise concerns over conduct of offline eSports events

Image courtesy: Twitter/@DOTA2

ESL One Singapore Major for Dota 2 marks the return of eSports to an offline format for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The event is a rather large one and in many ways a test for other eSports events that are set to take place later this year.

With all eyes on the tournament and its success, the biggest question that needs to be answered is, are we ready to go offline even though the pandemic is yet to be resolved?

If several incidents related to the Singapore Open 2021 are any indication, we still have a lot of thinking left to do on this front. I believe that after this tournament, all eSports events organisers need to sit and take a long hard look at how to ensure a safe and fair playing environment for all athletes.

It must be noted that two teams had to withdraw from the event before the start as members of their contingent tested positive for coronavirus . NAVI, a well-established eSports organisation, was set to make an appearance at the $500,000 event. However, their two team members tested positive for COVID-19 , and as per rules, the team was forced to look for replacements. Eventually, NAVI had to withdraw as one of the replacements also tested positive.

The other case is of South American team beastcoast chose to withdraw from the tournament as one of theirs players had been in contact with a person who tested positive for the virus.

While these two teams are the only ones that have withdrawn from the tournament, several others are playing with substitutes.

Quincy Crew generated a lot of hype earlier in the year as they went nearly undefeated in their region before falling short in their last two sets. The team will be missing the services of their player Arif "MSS" Anwar as he tested positive. The team announced that he would be replaced by Milan "MiLAN" Kozomara, who also tested positive on 30 March 2021. This resulted in the team needing to find a replacement yet again, this time in the middle of the tournament.

Team Nigma, one of the powerhouses of the Europe region in the world of Dota 2 were forced to have their coach play as a replacement for Ivan Borislavov "MinD_ContRoL" Ivanov, who tested positive.

Neon Esports did extremely well during the regular season, finishing second in the South East Asia region. They have also been forced to find a replacement for their player John Anthony "Natsumi-" Vargas.

T1, another top team in the South East region has also been forced to find a replacement. Their captain Carlo “Kuku” Palad backed out due to health reasons.

At the same time, another powerhouse from China (China have their own region in Dota 2) has been forced to find a replacement as well. However, unlike the other cases, Ye "BoBoKa" Zhibiao, (also known as Borax) was unable to attend due to personal reasons, and as such it can be assumed that COVID-19 has had no part to play in his case.

The various replacements have had an impact on the standard of play in the tournaments as both T1 and Nigma were unable to perform during the wild card stage and fell to the bottom two spots. Not surprisingly, they were among the first teams to be eliminated. Even Neon Esports has only barely been able to avoid elimination so far. The only team that has played well despite multiple substitutions is Quincy Crew.

As we have seen with several sports, it is possible to hold tournaments if safety measures are followed. As a matter of fact, Singapore hosted the M2 World Championships for Mobile Legends Bang Bang (MLBB) earlier this year behind closed doors. It also ran into some problems as several players tested positive right before the start of the tournament. These players played the rest of the tournament while being isolated in their rooms.

Despite strict measures being taken and the fact that Singapore was able to host a closed-doors event successfully, there are problems that need to be addressed. As it has been seen with the case of Milan "MiLAN" Kozomara falling sick mid-tournament and several teams being unable to field their proper roster, there is some thinking that needs to be done. It may still be too early to host an offline tournament.

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