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Langford soccer internationals cancelled due to pandemic

The Canada-Trinidad and Tobago soccer games March 27 and March 31 at Westhills Stadium have become the first COVID-19 casualties of a heavy spring and summer of scheduled international sporting events on the Island.
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Island soccer fans had been hoping to see star player Alphonso Davies wearing a Canadian soccer jersey at Westhills Stadium in Langford this month, but the two games against Trinidad and Tobago were cancelled on Friday.

The Canada-Trinidad and Tobago soccer games March 27 and March 31 at Westhills Stadium have become the first COVID-19 casualties of a heavy spring and summer of scheduled international sporting events on the Island. Both games were cancelled due to the pandemic.

The first game was sold out and ticket sales were ongoing for the second when the cancellations were announced.

CONCACAF, which has suspended play for 30 days, has not announced how that will affect qualifying for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Canada was looking to secure crucial rankings points in those games against Trinidad and Tobago before the current deadline of late June.

Canada Soccer said the games were cancelled “in the best interest of the safety of players, coaches, officials, staff, and fans.” It said fans who have bought tickets will receive refunds and can expect to be contacted directly.

“Canada Soccer has been and will continue to closely monitor all COVID-19 developments in consultation with the Public Health Agency of Canada and relevant governing bodies through the Canada Soccer Sport Medicine Committee,” the organization said in a statement.

In keeping with the Beautiful Game, B.C. Soccer has suspended all sanctioned events, which includes the Vancouver Island Soccer League and its Jackson Cup competition.

However, preparations continue for the Canada Sevens women’s rugby tournament on May 2-3 at Westhills Stadium and the men’s Olympic basketball qualifying tournament from June 23 to 28 at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre.

CANADA SEVENS: Canadian women’s sevens head coach John Tait of Mill Bay continues unabated training of his charges in Langford.

“Nothing is decided. [May’s Canada Sevens] is a couple of months away and we are moving forward unless we hear otherwise,” he said

Canada, tied with Australia for second in the World Series behind New Zealand, has qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

The team is taking precautions to stay healthy, including practising social distancing.

“We have a healthy group,” said Tait. “But events are being cancelled all over the world and particularly now in North America. We are following guidelines of the health authorities. We are keeping athletes in isolation from each other and are doing our best and being extra careful in hygiene.”

OLYMPIC BASKETBALL QUALIFIER: June’s 2020 Tokyo Olympic men’s basketball qualifier at the Memorial Centre is dependent on decisions made by the International Olympic Committee and FIBA. FIBA has postponed all its late-season and playoff basketball games around the world, but has instructed the four Olympic qualifying venues to continue preparing.

It follows that if the 2020 Tokyo Summer Games proceed, so, too, will the hoops qualifiers. The IOC has been derided for being overly optimistic that the Games will go ahead. But the IOC and Japanese government and organizers remain adamant. The Games has a cushion of time until July 24, something that with shocking suddenness this week was not afforded the NHL, NBA, MLS or the WHL and Victoria Royals, and BCHL and Nanaimo Clippers and Cowichan Valley Capitals.

Nearly 3,000 full-tournament packages, which are not cheap and include all nine games of the Victoria hoops qualifier, have been sold so far. Individual game tickets for the Canada games were expected to be snapped up within minutes when they went on sale.

“The local organizing committee remains hopeful all measures are being put in place that will serve to contain the virus,” said Clint Hamilton, chairman of the Victoria tournament steering committee. But this is an unprecedented time in sports with no one able to give clear timelines. Refunds will be issued if the tournament is cancelled. But there is some time before the event.

“We will continue to plan as we have been with the express hope the qualifier will proceed as currently planned. Our actions now will determine if the Summer Olympics proceed. How we follow procedures now will determine when sport gets back on track in the future.

“One of the powerful things about sport is that we come together for it. Now we have the ability to combat a common foe. If we do that, it will allow us to return to the normal sports environment we are striving to get back to. We’re all coming together to compete against the same common foe so we can get back to the games we love.”

VICTORIA OPEN: The Victoria pro golf stop on the Mackenzie Tour PGA Tour Canada is still on at Uplands from June 4 to 7.

“We’re still alive. We sure hope it goes on because a lot of work has been put into it,” said director Keith Dagg.

“We’re still moving ahead like it’s on. That’s our attitude.”

ROYALS/WHL: As the Victoria Royals and the rest of the WHL sit it out for now, the umbrella body Canadian Hockey League issued a statement Friday expressing optimism the 2020 Memorial Cup major-junior hockey championship at Kelowna in May can be saved. “It remains our hope that the event will continue as scheduled as we work through these unprecedented circumstances,” the CHL said.

In Friday’s Times Colonist, it was implied the Royals have played more than 700 home games since 2011-12. That is the number of overall games, both home and away, the franchise has played since coming to the Island. The number of home games is nearly 350.

“Each one of those has been the largest gathering on Vancouver Island that day,” noted Royals GM Cam Hope, in Friday’s story about COVID-19 and the WHL.

B.C. HOCKEY LEAGUE: It’s over, done, finished. The umbrella Canadian Junior Hockey League has scrubbed the entire Junior A playoff season across the country. The Nanaimo Clippers and Cowichan Valley Capitals were preparing to compete in a 2020 BCHL Island Division final that will never be played.

The Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League has suspended its playoffs until further notice.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com