The novel coronavirus pandemic has claimed yet another sporting casualty. FC Barcelona and Manchester City were scheduled to play a charity friendly match against each other this summer, but it has now been postponed for at least a year.
What was expected to be a blockbuster match between the Premier League champions and the La Liga giants was organised with the intention to help raise funds for organisations that support another medical condition, ALS.
However, the event will have to be cancelled for now, and won't take place within the original schedule ahead of the 2021/22 season opener. According to Marca, the event was conceptualised after former Barcelona assistant coach Juan Carlos Unzue was diagnosed with the disease.
Barcelona had been planning to welcome a capacity crowd at the Camp Nou in order to raise the maximum amount that they can donate to the cause. However, despite the massive vaccination efforts across the continent, the novel coronavirus pandemic continues to rage.
The summer holidays and relaxed restrictions have led to a surge in infections across the globe. Fresh restrictions including lockdowns and mask-wearing are being re-imposed in many countries, and mass gatherings are earning criticism.
Unzue himself made the decision to postpone the match, owing to the dangers posed by Covid-19. "It's a very difficult decision for me, but we've decided to postpone the match," he said, in an interview with TV3. "The only objective of the match was to raise as much money as possible for ALS research, so I think this is the best decision. It's a unique event that we can't repeat, so we want to wait to be able to make a big amount.
Indeed, forcing the issue by playing the match with a limited audience will hurt the objective of raising money for charity. Apart from that, staging a mass gathering will also put thousands of people at risk of getting exposed to the virus and getting sick.
Nevertheless, Unzue remains confident that the event will still push through at a later date. He said that he received assurances from the likes of Barcelona's Rafa Yuste and Manchester City Manager Pep Guardiola, saying that the postponement does not mean that the event has been shelved permanently.
"This match will be played when we find another time in the calendar that suits both teams. If it can't be during this season then the plan is to hold it at the start of next season. So, in roughly a year," he added.