Next year could be a bountiful year for sports fans after the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic forced almost all of this year’s major sporting events to be cancelled or postponed.
The tradition-steeped Wimbledon Tennis Championships is the most recent major event to be cancelled, raising fears that tennis might also not return until next year.
Not that sports fans will complain as next year could feature the most lavish sporting calender in history.
Non-stop football action
From the Afcon in January and February to the Euro Championships in June and July, as well as the Olympic football tournament in July and August, soccer fans are in for a thrill.
After that, the domestic club campaigns will kick off. Footballers are in for non-stop action – juggling club and country assignments.
There is also club football action between these tournaments, which will culminate in cup competitions such as the Uefa Champions League, the FA Cup and, locally, the season-ending Nedbank Cup in May.
Continental football action next year begins in Cameroon, with the Afcon finals scheduled for January 9 to February 6.
However, it is hoped that the halting of the qualifiers, which were scheduled to be played last month, will not affect the scheduling of the continental championships.
Meanwhile, the rescheduling of the Olympic football competition means that some players could be back on the field for their clubs a few days after the multicoded Games end in Japan on August 8.
Traditionally, August is the month when many domestic club leagues around the world kick off.
For most players born in Europe, the Euros will present a heavy schedule. Kylian Mbappe, who is set to make the France squad for the June 11 to July 11 tournament, is one such player. The tournament is scheduled to be played in 12 cities across Europe.
The 21-year-old will most likely be included in the French Olympic team, with more game time awaiting the quicksilver striker at his club, Paris Saint-Germain, in the 2020/21 campaign.
Similarly, Brazil and Argentina stars who mostly ply their trade in top European leagues will have their plates full next year, thanks to the month-long Copa América tournament that will be co-hosted by Colombia and Argentina from June 11 to July 11.
Locally, Mamelodi Sundowns’ regular run in the CAF Champions League could see players like Themba Zwane rack up more games next year.
The Bafana Bafana midfielder will most likely feature at Afcon should South Africa qualify. Later, if he is retained in the provisional Under-23 squad, he will go to the Olympics as one of the over-age players at the global showpiece in Japan.
Athletics suffocates under the rescheduling
With more major competitions set for next year, track and field events have also suffered due to the effects of the virus.
This week, this year’s World Athletics Championships were pushed to 2022.
The move has forced World Athletics (formerly IAAF) to enter into discussions with the Commonwealth Games Federation and the European football governing body, Uefa, to avoid a clash of events in 2022.
The global athletics championships were scheduled to take place in Eugene, US, (from August 6 to 15) but the competition has been postponed until 2022, the same year the Commonwealth Games in the UK are scheduled to take place (July 27 to August 7).
The Women’s Euro Championships was also moved to 2022.
The World Athletics Indoor Championships in Nanjing, China, which were moved from last month to March 19 to 21, will kick-start the athletics season next year.
Track and field will, however, find solace in the new dates for the Olympics as the Games were postponed to next year.
The lucrative Diamond League series this year suspended three competitions originally scheduled for Stockholm, Sweden (May 24), Naples/Rome, Italy (May 28) and Rabat, Morocco (May 31).
This is in addition to the events in Qatar and China having already been removed from the calendar.
Rugby set to restart as normal next season
This year’s Six Nations tournament might not be complete yet, but it is expected that next year’s major rugby events will go ahead as planned.
All eyes will be on the British and Irish Lions coming to South Africa for three test matches against the Springboks – at FNB Stadium on July 24, Newlands in Cape Town on July 31 and Ellis Park on August 7.
The schedule also includes six weekend fixtures –three against Super Rugby teams the Bulls, Sharks and the Stormers, two midweek fixtures against an invitational side in Port Elizabeth and South Africa “A” in Mbombela, Mpumalanga.
Can F1 also make a tight squeeze into next year?
As things stand, the Formula 1 season remains on hold, but this raises questions about what this means for next year’s programme. The first eight races of the season have already been postponed or cancelled.
In other sports with fixed annual calendars, organisers will most likely cancel this year’s events rather than seek to double up on tournaments next year.
Cricket is a perfect example of this. Last month, the Proteas’ tour of India was aborted due to Covid-19. Temba Bavuma and his team-mates returned home without a ball being bowled.