Life on tour is difficult for golfer Kiradech
Athletes have to adjust to new normal
Sports have not been the same since they were hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, which forced a host of events to be postponed or cancelled earlier this year.
The biggest victim has been the 2020 Olympics, which will now be held next year.
Indeed, the fate of the Tokyo Games remain unclear as it is feared that next year’s tournament could be axed because of the coronavirus.
Competitions in many sports have resumed after months of suspension including popular disciplines such as football, golf, Formula One, rugby and cricket.
In an attempt to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, officials are required to wear face masks during competitions, most of which are being played behind closed doors.
In the absence of spectators, some football teams place cardboard cutouts of fans in the stands to avoid that ’empty-stadium’ feeling, while fake crowd noise is being pumped in during live telecasts of matches on TV.
The cardboard cutouts were initiated by Germany’s Bundesliga club Borussia Moenchengladbach, who charged their fans €19 (700 baht) each to have life-sized images of themselves in the stands in the Borussia-Park stadium.
South Korea’s FC Seoul football team placed sex dolls in their stadium in an attempt to create a lively atmosphere that backfired and earned them a 100 million won (2.6 million baht) fine — the biggest in K-League history — instead.
Baseball cheerleaders in Taiwan have been interacting live with fans from stadiums, chatting and broadcasting dance routines over their mobile phones.
One cheerleader even cooked and ate a barbecue while sitting in the stands, while streaming herself live on the internet.
Without fans in the stadium, teams have lost their home-field advantage as they can’t pile the pressure generated by their supporters on the visiting sides.
Safety protocols are in place in all sports as athletes need to undergo coronavirus tests before matches.
Players and involved parties have been advised not to greet each other or celebrate with a hug, a high-five or a handshake.
The practices have been replaced by fist, elbow or racquet bumps.
Failure to observe the health measures could result in players getting the virus.
In June, world No.1 tennis player Novak Djokovic organised the Adria Tour exhibition events in Serbia and Croatia.
The tournaments witnessed packed stands with players hugging at the net, playing basketball, posing for pictures and attending press conferences together.
Several big-name players, including Djokovic, later tested positive after attending these tournaments.
A number of golfers on the PGA Tour have also tested positive since the elite circuit resumed in June.
On the tour, players, caddies, officials and employees are required to fill out health questionnaires and have pre-travel screening tests.
They are required to take nasal swab/saliva tests upon arrival, likely at a designated hotel, followed by daily questionnaires and screenings, among other measures.
The PGA Tour has arranged charter flights between the events for players and caddies. Players have also been directed to leave the course as soon as possible after their rounds.
“There are a lot of safety measures on and off the course,” said Thai golfer Kiradech Aphibarnrat.
“Indeed, golf is a ‘safe’ sport as it is played in a big area but players still have to look after themselves to avoid any risk [of contracting the virus].”
Kiradech, the first and only Thai to hold a PGA Tour card, admits his life has been made more difficult by the coronavirus protocols in the post-Covid-19 era.
“Golfers will experience more difficult times,” said the 30-year-old star.
With limited space at practice ranges, it takes more time for players to wait for their turn to practise after each round, he said.
“Travelling from a tournament to another could be a problem for golfers as it may not be convenient or comfortable for players and caddies to travel in the same charter flight arranged by the tour.”
The tour also advises players to stay in a designated hotel.
“We can’t arrange our own travel plans,” Kiradech said.
“The tour advises players to eat in the designated hotel where we stay and should not go out for dining. It is a bit tough for me as I like Thai food and do not like western food.
“But I have to adjust myself to this ‘new normal’ life.”