Managua: Football in Nicaragua is enjoying a surge in popularity as one of the few national leagues where games are still ongoing but players in action there are concerned about the spread of the new coronavirus and say fear has changed the way they play.
“We try to avoid touching other players,” Carlos Mosquera, goalkeeper with Deportivo Las Sabanas, told Reuters. “Football has changed, because you don’t go in for a 50-50 ball with the same intensity.”
“The fear of what is happening in the world is always present. Mentally, you’re not focused on the game, you are always thinking that opponents may have the disease.”
The Primera Liga de Nicaragua is one of only four leagues believed to have survived the coronavirus lockdown, along with those in Belarus, Burundi and Tajikistan.
Games in the Central American nation are being played behind closed doors but are being broadcast locally on television or live on Facebook.
The refusal to shut down has drawn global attention to football in a nation that has long preferred baseball, a sport that is also resisting a lockdown in Nicaragua.
The secretary general of the Nicaraguan Football Federation, Jose Maria Bermudez, said fans from around the world are now tuning in to watch games and bet on them.
“We can tell from monitoring these things that more people are paying attention, particularly on betting sites,” Bermudez said in a phone interview.
“It has no effect on us financially – people win or lose money, we don’t get more money – but we can see that people are following us because we are one of the few countries where football is still going on.”
Bermudez also said with live sport almost entirely absent from the world’s TV screens, at least one foreign company had been in touch with the local rights holder, state-run Canal 6, asking to broadcast Nicaraguan games live.
That could result in a windfall for the unheralded league.
Bermudez stressed that the 10-team league has not decided to complete their season, merely “to keep playing for as long as the situation permits.”
Updated Date: Apr 05, 2020 14:42:59 IST