Covid-19 Doesn’t Stop Sports in Nicaragua

By Nick Kaiser and Franko Koitzsch (dpa)

Boxing in Nicaragua.  Photo: ESPN

Nicaragua is among a small number of countries without major lockdown measures because of the coronavirus. Professional sport is also continuing, such as soccer, baseball and boxing.

HAVANA TIMES – Soccer leagues and boxing around the world have been abandoned or suspended because of the coronavirus outbreak – but not so in Nicaragua.

[In the Central American country, the government run by VP / First Lady Rosario Murillo has said God would protect citizens and that life should go on as normal.]

Wednesday saw the semi-final return legs of the Liga Primera, with Real Esteli and Managua FC advancing into the final.

Games are being played behind closed doors but there are no specific safety measures for players, coaches and referees. In addition, fans still gather in groups on walls or hills to watch the games, according to local sports journalist Nectali Mora Zeledon in El Salvador’s Los Provocadores radio program.

Nicaragua joins Belarus and Turkmenistan as a very small number of countries where soccer is still being played amid the pandemic.

Baseball is also on in the central American country, and last Saturday saw eight boxing bouts in the capital of Managua – with US broadcasters ESPN airing them and hundreds of fans in attendance.

Fans had their temperature taken on entering the hall, their hands and shoe soles were disinfected, social distancing rules were also observed and they wore face masks.

But not so the boxers themselves who had also not been tested for the
Sars-Cov-2 virus.

Promoter and ex-fighter Alvaro ‘El Bufalo’ Alvarez expressed pride that his country was able to stage such an event and said the fighters needed to support their families, but others are not so sure.

“If a boxer gets infected and possibly even dies then the whole family has nothing to eat any more. The spread of the virus is always possible in this fighting sport,” German ring doctor Walter Wagner told dpa.

Wagner added that the referee and judges were also in danger despite wearing face masks.

Nicaragua has not closed its borders, schools and many shops remain open and there are no lockdown restrictions. The nation’s President, Daniel Ortega, also organizes mass gatherings.

According to official figures 13 people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus and three of them have died – but there are doubts around these numbers, and Amnesty International has accused the government of risking the lives of thousands of people.

“If we stop working here the country dies,” Ortega insisted two weeks ago.

Criticizing the government can lead to repercussions, with some doctors reportedly sacked, and one of the country’s best rising baseball players – Robbin Zeledon – was suspended for a year because he didn’t want to play out of fear of contracting Covid-19.

Baseball legend Dennis Martinez in contrast praised Zeledon’s courage.

“The officials will be responsible for the families that could die,” Martinez told the La Prensa paper, urging the players to “unite and fight for the right to live.”