Football in Nicaragua is enjoying a surge in popularity. It is one of only a few national leagues still ongoing, but players there are concerned about the spread of the coronavirus and say fear has changed the way they play.

The Primera Liga de Nicaragua is one of only four leagues believed to have survived the coronavirus lockdown, along with those in Belarus, Burundi and Tajikistan.

Football matches in Nicaragua are being played behind closed doors. The action is being broadcast on the country’s local television station or live on Facebook.

The refusal to shut down the league, has drawn global attention to football in the Central America nation, where baseball is the sport of choice and a sport that has also resisted a lockdown.

The Secretary General of the Nicaraguan Football Federation Jose Maria Bermudez says fans from around the world are now tuning in to watch their matches and bet on them.

“What we received and it was a request from a broadcast company in Sweden, who showed interest, in showing logically live league games, for the same thing. I think here, nationwide, we won’t achieve the same thing because it’s accessible but soccer has been halted all over the world. Soccer is the number 1 sport around the world, so people who are fans want to watch football. I think that’s part of the reasons why people have turned their attention over here,” says Bermudez.

Bermudez stresses that the 10-team league has not decided to complete their season, but merely to keep playing for as long as the situation permits.

No consultation

Players say they were not consulted about the decision to keep playing, which was taken after a meeting between the league and club owners. Some players lined up for matches the past week wearing masks and gloves. The fans are not pleased about the arrangements at all.

”I think it’s a bad decision on behalf of the directors and the league because they are risking the health of the players and their families because we have seen in other countries in Italy, Spain famous players who have tested positive for coronavirus,” says a fan.

In Belarus, football fans decided to boycott matches amid the coronavirus outbreak. They are urging the Belarusian Football Federation to halt all competitions.

“It’s a very worrying situation. There are more and more rumours that this is the last football match, that everything will stop soon for months. So I basically came for the last time to watch a football match before isolating.”

Current figures estimate that Belarus has had 562 confirmed coronavirus cases, a jump of 122 from Saturday, with eight deaths.

Meanwhile, football’s governing body FIFA has formed a working group to deal with the financial issues and concerns due to the pandemic.

With the coronavirus pandemic having forced almost all football related activities to be suspended across the globe, some clubs are cutting the wages of players and staff members.

FIFA has formed a coronavirus working group to deal with the financial fallout from the pandemic. It has produced guidelines for clubs and football bodies looking to cut costs during the stoppage caused by the pandemic.

Virtual race

In other sports news, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc was a dominant winner on his Formula One e-sports debut on Sunday, while World Cup-winning England cricketer, Ben Stokes, brought up the rear in a virtual Vietnam Formula One Grand Prix.

The inaugural Vietnam Grand Prix was scheduled for Sunday, but the virtual race, with the 20 drivers joining remotely from their homes, was staged on a version of Melbourne’s Albert Park.