We’re dealing with a nasty player

The Atlantic Sun sports team, from left, Lonwabo Marele, Fuad Esack and Mzoxolo Budaza during last years Coke Cup finals at Athlone Stadium. Not pictured is colleague Buntu Gotywa.

Although not exactly the biggest concern right now, sport – whether recreational or professional – certainly plays a big part in many people’s lives.

The disappointment of missing out on events that had been called off in an attempt to contain the spread of the coronavirus, cannot be underestimated.

But in the same way as individuals or teams bounce back from defeat, there’s comfort in knowing that there is always the next game or next season.

For now, we’re dealing with a nasty player in the shape of a deadly virus. This one deserves a red card, hopefully sooner rather than later.

It’s been a while since journalists in South Africa have had to work under difficult circumstances – and I’m not referring to the day-to-day grind or the stress that comes with everyday life – but our situation now, where movement and interaction with people are heavily restricted.

But, as the saying goes, the show must go on, the presses must keep on pressing and reporters reporting.

That said, it’s somewhat tricky to cover sport when there’s nothing happening. On the sports desk there’s nothing worse than staring at a blank page and no cash left in the story bank.

The last big event I covered was the Junior Cycle Tour, a week before the Cape Town Cycle Tour, the last of the big events in the city, this year.

Empty fields and cancelled events do not help us to fill the paper.

We certainly can’t send blank pages to the printers. My late father-in-law, in his infinite wisdom, used to say: “Julle moet die koerantjie vol maak.”

Loosely translated, that means we have to fill the paper, although it doesn’t have quite the same tone as in the way he used to say it.

But that’s exactly our job, day in and day out, page after page, we have to fill the paper. So, if there are no games to report on, what do we do?

Do we throw in the towel, bury our heads in the sand? Hell no. Like everyone else, we’ve had to adapt, change tact and draw on our reserves.

Soccer doc Nasief van der Schyff, Safa Cape Town’s newly-appointed head of its coronavirus task team, said it best during a recent interview with the Atlantic Sun: “We have to think outside the box. Let’s use this time to make ourselves better,” he said.

Sound advice from a knowledgeable person. As it turns out, every dark cloud really does have a silver lining.

When it comes to sports coverage, two things often grab the headlines: that big win or heavy defeat.

The end result is all that matters, never mind what goes on beforehand. However, the threat posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, forced us to take time out and re-strategise.

Instead of looking at what we don’t have, we looked at what we’ve got.

First question that came to mind is how the sports fraternity is dealing with the current crisis, how coaches are coping and athletes staying in shape. Over the past few weeks, I’ve spoken to various coaches and administrators, each one describing how they are handling the situation – from the athletics coach who’s taken his training online to the one that started a drive on social media to collect soap and hand sanitisers to be distributed to informal settlements.

The latest, an intrepid basketball coach, even created a free app for players and other users, to stay up to date with the latest South African stats regarding the virus. Often we don’t have the time to delve into all of the sacrifices and effort that goes on behind the scenes.

Now we do. It’s true what the old folks said, always look on the bright side of things, even when times are tough, push on through. Dedicated sportsmen and women know that hard work will eventually pay off.

The same applies to us, to everyone, if you’ve worked hard, you’ll have plenty of juice left in the tank to cross the finish line.

In our line of work, we can never run out of steam, or, as retailers would say, out of stock.

There are too many good stories to tell, too many people working hard on and off the field. So we’ll continue to bring you these and other stories, during and after the lockdown.

Although the big leagues are what many a starving sports fan misses most, our focus will remain on community sporting activities.

And when things return to normal, whatever the new normal will be, we’ll be at a game in your neighbourhood. If you’re a sports fan, couch potato or active participant, feel free to let us know how you are dealing with the lockdown.

Fuad Esack is the sports editor at Cape Community Newspapers, publishers of Atlantic Sun and 14 other titles.