A qualifying event for the 2022 Women’s Cricket World Cup taking place in Zimbabwe has been abandoned due to the emergence of the highly mutated Omicron variant in South Africa, while a top-flight Portuguese men’s soccer game was abandoned in extraordinary scenes.
Ireland had been playing in the cricket event in the hope of securing one of the final three places for next year’s showpiece in New Zealand but will now miss out, with Bangladesh, Pakistan and the West Indies joining the hosts, Australia, England, South Africa and India by virtue of their place in the ODI rankings.
“We are incredibly disappointed to have to cancel the remainder of this event but with travel restrictions from a number of African countries being imposed at such short notice, there was a serious risk that teams would be unable to return home,” ICC head of events Chris Tetley said.
In Europe, Portuguese club Belenenses started their Primeira Liga match against Benfica two players short due to an outbreak of coronavirus in their squad.
Belenenses – whose side included a goalkeeper playing as an outfield players – trailed 7-0 at halftime with the hosts returning to the pitch after the break with only seven men.
The match was then called off a minute into the second half as goalkeeper Joao Monteiro dropped to the turf, forcing the referee to abandon the game due to the minimum number of players not being on the field.
After a positive test in the squad earlier in the week, a total of 17 cases were reported to have been recorded among players and staff.
The Belenenses players released a joint statement before the match, which read: “Football only has heart if it is competitive. Football only has heart if it is really sporting.
“Football only has heart when it is an example of public health. Today, football lost its heart.”
Manchester City and Portugal midfielder Bernardo Silva watched on and tweeted in disbelief: “What is this? Am I the only one who doesn’t understand why the game hasn’t been postponed?”
Darwin Nunez scored a hat-trick as Benfica put their depleted hosts to the sword, but the headlines were made by Belenenses, who eventually managed to force the spectacle to be abandoned.
In the US, the National Hockey League postponed two more games for coronavirus-related reasons, making it five so far this season.
New York Islanders games on Sunday at the Rangers and Tuesday at the Philadelphia Flyers were postponed after additional members of the team went into the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol on Saturday.