Football viewing centres in Abakaliki are presently bracing for the resumption of the English Premier League (EPL), billed to restart on June 17.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that the EPL among other football leagues across the world were suspended in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic ravaging the world.
The ensuing lockdown by the government of various countries halted all sporting and most economic activities.
However, with its gradual easing, some leagues resumed, notably the German Bundesliga and Spanish La Liga.
A NAN correspondent who monitored various football viewing centres in the town on Tuesday reports that most of them were eager to resume after over three months of inactivity.
The centres also outlined various COVID-19 preventive protocols on their notice boards.
Chidi Ugwu, a viewing centre operator at Kpirikpiri area, said that he hoped to recoup ‘lost earnings’ with the resumption of the much ‘sought-after’ EPL.
“It is true that we have resumed operations since the resumption of the German and presently the Spanish leagues but the EPL is what the fans are waiting for.
“The number of viewers who watch the German and Spanish leagues are ‘nothing to write home about’ but we hope that business will peak with the EPL resumption,” he said.
Mr Ugwu said, however, that viewers were expected to observe COVID-19 preventive protocols to ensure safety while also adapting to the consequential adjustment in the viewing fee.
“The soccer fans are expected to wash their hands with the running water we provide, clean their hands with sanitisers and compulsorily wear face masks.
“They are also expected to sit only two on a seat in observance of social distancing rules which has made the viewing fee to increase from N70 to N100,” he said.
Jude Imagbo, a viewing centre operator at Hausa quarters of the town, said fans would be three on a bench due to non-availability of adequate space in his viewing centre.
“The fans who will stand when seats are occupied will stand at two metres apart from one another while observing all COVID-19 prevention protocols.
“We are lucky to have Manchester City vs Arsenal match as the star fixture of the EPL resumption as the expected surge of the fans will enable us to access our crowd control abilities,” he said.
Hillary Ubesie, Secretary of Ebonyi Football Association, expressed delight with the resumption of the EPL.
According to him, it will ‘symbolically ‘ signal the re-commencement of football with the COVID-19 lockdown being eased across the world.
“The EPL is the most popular league in the world as its resumption will re-ignite the passion of fans which has been withheld for over three months.
“We also hope that the relevant authorities in Nigeria and Africa in general will take cues from the European leagues resumption and fashion modalities for the resumption of our domestic leagues,” he said.