In Gabon, a country in Central Africa bordered to the north by Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea and to the south by Congo Brazzaville, with a population of 2 million inhabitants, the practice of sports remains totally amateur despite the authorities’ desire to professionalize some sports such as football, basketball and handball.
This willingness has not yet materialized. As in the majority of countries in the world, Gabon is no exception to the major disconnection in the family of sports. Sports in the country, is currently experiencing enormous difficulties due to the coronavirus pandemic, and the sports press is extremely affected.
The Covid-19 pandemic has led to major setbacks in the development of sports. As soon as the first case was registered on March 12, 2020, the government automatically took strong decisions to prevent the spread of the pandemic. Among the measures taken was a ban on sports activities in the country, especially football, as the national championship was already in its 6th day.
After the government’s decision, mass decisions by the sports authorities followed. From the Minister of Youth and Sports, the Gabonese Football Federation and the national football league, which decided on the immediate suspension of the D1 and D2 championships. The other disciplines, which had not yet started their national competitions, had decided to wait and follow the evolution of the disease in the country before setting up a new calendar. The major international event, the Port-Gentil marathon, was postponed for a later date.
Gabon had spent two weeks in partial lockdown and two weeks in total lockdown. On March 28, the Prime Minister announced the end of the lockdown, but all other restrictive measures have been maintained.
For players from Division 1 and Division 2 clubs, certain arrangements were made by club officials to allow players to keep training.
The sports media are the most affected by this lack of activities. Some are no longer able to work, others now do so thanks to digital platforms, which allow them to work from home. This cessation of sport activities has led to unemployment because some press managers are no longer able to bear the costs, which has led to journalists being laid off. Despite calls for solidarity from journalists’ associations, the authorities have done nothing to support the sports press.
As things stand, most sports journalists are turning to cover non-sporting events to maintain their jobs at this crucial time when some newspapers are gradually disappearing. Sports programmes on TV and radio stations are gradually disappearing, leaving presenters, analysts and their followers devastated. For survival, some sports journalists are now learning about online journalism.
The sports press association, despite the difficulties encountered, is working with civil society organizations and various NGOs to raise awareness through sports on the pandemic, urging them to put into practice all the preventive measures recommended by the government and the World Health Organization.
Despite government efforts, which are proving to be unproductive, the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus is increasing daily at a rapid rate, with 5 out of 9 provinces in Gabon already affected by the pandemic.
As of June 10, 2020, Gabon has registered 3294 positive cases of coronavirus, 21 deaths and 954 persons who recovered. These results create a real panic among the population. Curfew remains in effect from 6pm to 6am.
Source: Rodrigue Bekale| President of AGPSI