Six players and one administrator of the Spartak Moscow hockey club showed positive test results for COVID-19 on July 12, just before the opening of training camp. The team reported that the players and the administrator would be quarantined in Spartak’s training base located in Novogorsk, a satellite city of Moscow.
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The Russian Sport-Express Newspaper reported, however, that more than ten people working and playing for Spartak were sick with COVID-19. That was the reason for halting the camp, Sport-Express claims.
Only Zubarev Speaks Out
Spartak defenseman Andrey Zubarev is suffering from COVID-19. “Stay away from your friends, relatives. They will thank you afterwards. It is a nasty thing. Wish you all health,” Zubarev wrote on his Instagram account. The team did not disclose the names of other players and employees who are also suffering from the illness.
Unlike Zubarev, the team reported that all the cases of COVID-19 were light and that its players were not suffering greatly. Still, management consulted the state authorities for advice and later announced the camp closed.
Repeated testing of Spartak’s ranks was carried out on July 21, 2020. The results of Tuesday’s tests were decisive in whether or not training camp would be re-starting any time soon. Although no additional cases were discovered during the test, the club decided not to resume the camp.
KHL Season to Start in September
Six more KHL players showed positive results for COVID-19 or pneumonia, said KHL president Alexei Morozov in an interview on July 13. The league cooperated with the state authorities to ensure that all safety requirements were met before restarting full-fledged operations, Morozov explained. “KHL’s priority has been and remains to be the health of all participants of the championship: hockey players, coaches, club employees and fans,” Morozov said.
Notwithstanding the setback due to the outbreak, Spartak is pushing forward with the sales of annual tickets. The marketing slogan is, “the virus will leave you, but the ticket will stay.” Tickets include seats for 80 percent of playoff games, which betrays Spartak’s ambition for the season.
The KHL, too, is pushing forward with the preparations for the new season – it is mulling over several variants of the calendar for the next season. The final decision will be made after the board of directors establishes the number of participating teams at its meeting, which started last week. The championship will start on Sept. 2.
In order to boost the players’ fitness and morale, as well as the interest of the fans, a number of preseason tournaments will run throughout the league’s participating countries. Spartak is supposed to play in the Moscow Mayor’s Cup starting on Aug. 27. Other announced participants of the Cup are CSKA and Dynamo, both from Moscow, as well as Vityaz from Podolsk – a satellite township next to Moscow.
Losing Preseason to COVID-19
The fact that Spartak’s medics have detected the outbreak of the pandemic proves their serious attitude to their players’ and employees’ health, as well as strict adherence to the policies of the KHL. “The teams will start training only after all the players have gone through tests,” Morozov said in the same interview. Indeed, Spartak owns its own polyclinic staffed with top-notch doctors able to work miracles.
Taking into account that Moscow has proven to be the hotbed of the coronavirus in Russia, it is not surprising that a team from Moscow fell prey to the disease. The city’s public transportation system has not been shut down for a single day during the ongoing pandemic. Both the country and the city were slow to introduce epidemiological measures. Though the ensuing measures were drastic, this did not compensate for their late introduction.
Spartak’s Twitter account posted several photos of how closely players and staff interacted during training and other functions. For example, at a cardio-training before moving to Novogorsk, at least thirteen players and a trainer were exercising in a packed room. The possibilities for the virus to spread abounded.
This case of a COVID-19 outbreak at a Moscow club shall potentially become an important lesson learned for the whole league, especially for clubs from Russia’s most globalised cities — Moscow and St. Petersburg. If conclusions are right and future actions are consistent, the KHL has plenty to win. Otherwise, it may lose a season at the very least.