Author: Nadir KHOSROVOGHLU
During the quarantine, fans of sport missed a large number of competitions. Interrupted due to the pandemic, the calendar of sport events began to gradually recover. However, Azerbaijani authorities still keep sport events and trainings under quarantine. Professional athletes and ordinary citizens are limited to training at home, and more recently, jogging in parks.
The resumption of sport events in Azerbaijan is expected in June. What tournaments can be held in the first place? Our interviewee is the head of department of the Centre for Public Health and Reforms under the Ministry of Health, Nabil SEYIDOV.
"We can see that the quarantine measures have been significantly relieved. But we still do not know when the sports life of Azerbaijan resumes in full..."
"It’s hard to name specific dates yet. This issue is being actively discussed. The fight against coronavirus is not over yet. Sports competitions must be held according to special rules. Otherwise, we risk to increase the number of cases."
"Azerbaijan's Premier League for football was interrupted halfway. There are eight rounds left until the end of the championship. When will clubs be allowed to hold the games?"
"First, football matches will be held without fans. Unfortunately, their admission to the stadiums is impossible. A limited number of people will be present at the stadiums. The matches of the German Bundesliga are resumed in Europe. Now we are considering the rules that apply there. Reserve players must use masks and maintain social distance in the technical zone. In any case, football is a competition where the participants touch each other. Two teams are fighting on the field. The probability of contamination from the drops of sweat, saliva, and even blood in case of injury are high. Therefore, the resumption of football trainings is the subject of extremely serious discussion. It is necessary to take into account all of these points."
"What other organisational problems are there?"
"One of the biggest problems is with locker rooms, where 30-40 people change clothes at the same time. That is why the resumption of training facilities for team sports is the subject of such serious discussions. Some think of a football match as a meeting of 100-120 participants. In fact, many more people are present there. We must not forget those who ensure the holding of these matches, including the technical staff and security personnel."
"Which type of sport competition is the safest?"
"I would say fencing and chess competitions are relatively safe in terms of organisation, as athletes keep distance during the competition. In addition, special equipment is used in fencing. Therefore, the risk of transmission of the virus is relatively small. The organisation of chess competitions is also possible, provided that participants are concentration in a single space."
"How will this be implemented?"
"Imagine a chess competition. First, the number of participants is relatively small. At the same time, everyone, including the participants, organisers, and media representatives, as well as persons related to the competition, must stay in a single space during the whole period of the tournament. They can meet their families and loved ones only after the end of the tournament. In other words, they should be in one complex all the time. Unfortunately, it is extremely difficult to apply the same rules in football and other sports."
"What will be the main condition to resume competitions?"
"Periodic testing of participants. At the same time, athletes must be properly accommodated during the competition. Daily trips home are unacceptable. All such issues are under the control of the Operational Headquarters under the Cabinet of Ministers. It will take relevant decisions and will inform the public."
"When will it be possible to hold international competitions?"
"This required that international air traffic is resumed. This issue is not so relevant currently. In addition, we must first decide on holding local competitions. International tournaments will be discussed later. But before that we must study the situation in the cities where the athletes come from. There will also be testing at the airport."
"The pandemic was a strong blow to international sport. Will it be possible to get out of this situation in the near future?"
"The situation must stabilise in all countries. Only after this will the opening of borders become possible. In the current situation, lifting off of the bans in several countries does not resolve anything. Stabilisation is needed in the so called ‘red zone states’ so that other states no longer fear opening their borders."
"What would you advise the clubs in case of lifting the ban on training of football players?"
"All clubs have medical staff. At the same time, AFFA and PFL are also working in this direction. All training facilities and fields must be equipped with disinfectants. It is necessary to provide people with medical masks and gloves. I wish the players lived at the base during the competition. If AFFA manages to ensure this, it will be fine. After all, testing during the competition is not very rational. For example, a player with a negative test will go to the store or home, meet friends on the street. This may adversely affect his health. Therefore, the ideal option is to stay at the base. Sport in our country is developing rapidly. All citizens of Azerbaijan enjoy the success of our athletes. But currently health is more important. Athletes and coaches should, first of all, be healthy and only after that achieve new victories. The Azerbaijani government is doing everything necessary to survive the pandemic with the least loss. We must be patient and comply with all the requirements. We understand the condition of our athletes. It is extremely difficult for them without sports. Therefore, permission to resume training is expected soon. Life will gradually return to its former course."