Marbles, eSports and Tajikistan footie: A guide to lockdown sports

Marble racing: More entertaining than it may sound! (Photo: screenshot Jelle's Marble Run)

Your favourite sports have been called off indefinitely due to the coronavirus pandemic and competitive dog grooming just doesn’t work as a substitute. It’s every fanatic’s nightmare.

True, the NRL and AFL have worked to keep you entertained, with live-streamed classic matches and televised throwbacks, but sometimes nostalgia isn’t enough. And you just can’t wait six weeks for the NRL’s premiership restart. You need something that’s happening now.

Not to worry, because around the world a handful of leagues are still running, even if they’ve had to adapt to extraordinary circumstances. The previously lesser-known of these have now gathered a large international following and have made their games more accessible online.

Here are five sports still running and available to watch online.

Horse racing

Horse racing is still underway in most parts of Australia, although Tasmania has already shut down the sport and New South Wales has implemented strong restrictions. Racing Victoria continues to organise its races behind closed doors.

Caulfield, Mount Gambier, Ballarat, and the Sunshine Coast are among the locations hosting races for the remainder of April.

Races are available to watch on free-to-air Channel 78 in metropolitan areas, 68 in regional areas, or with an account on Racing.com.

Soccer

The world game is still being played in just four countries. The Nicaraguan Liga Primera and the Belarusian Premier League have gained heavy attention from every corner of the globe, while the top levels in Tajikistan and Taiwan are also continuing without crowds.

Surprisingly, fans can still attend matches in Belarus, where the virus has not been considered as seriously as other countries. However, fans are boycotting the games out of fear of catching the disease.

The Nicaraguan competition concludes later in April, but the remaining three will continue to play through the rest of the year under the assumption the virus does not cause further disruptions.

If you don’t mind watching soccer in a foreign language, the Liga Primera, Belarusian Football Federation, and Chinese Taipei Football Association are live-streaming matches on Youtube. Tajikistan Higher League matches require a Bet365 account and $10 minimum to watch.

Baseball

Soccer isn’t the only game on in Taiwan, where the pandemic growth has already slowed to almost a complete stop.

Four teams compete in the major Chinese Professional Baseball League, with a fifth waiting to join next year. The CPBL began its season on April 12 after the virus delayed the competition, and like most of the remaining soccer leagues, matches are being played without crowds.

The Rakuten Monkeys have taken full advantage of the situation, filling a part of the stands of their home ground with 500 robotic mannequin ‘fans’.

Eleven Sports Taiwan is broadcasting Rakuten Monkeys home matches on Twitter with English commentary. CPBL Stats has more information on where you can watch other matches.

eSports

Say what you will about whether it can be considered a form of sport, but competitive gaming has exploded in popularity over the past decade. And with no social contact necessary, eSports has only grown further during the pandemic.

And with the variety there is in the gaming sector, eSports has something for everyone. You could be watching a virtual NRL or AFL match, a gripping online shootout, or maybe some soccer with cars. Your choice.

Better yet, you don’t have to just watch people play games. Why not pick up a controller or have some fun on your PC? You could be competing against other gamers around the world, or get as close as you’ll ever get to playing professional footy.

But if you’re happy enough playing spectator, there are dozens of Youtube channels full of dedicated eSports content.

Marble racing

Yes, you read that right.

Jelle’s Marble Runs is a Youtube channel operated by Dutch brothers Jelle and Dion Bakker. Their brand of marble racing has grown a strong following over the years with nearly 800,000 subscribers, even despite accidentally deleting the channel in 2018.

They’re best known for the Marble League (formerly Marblelympics), in which teams of marbles with quirky names such as the O’Rangers and Green Ducks compete annually in Olympic-style events.

Other competitions run by the channel include the Sand Marble Rally and Marbula 1, the latter having just concluded its inaugural season.

Marbula E, a collaboration with Envision Virgin Racing Formula E, had its first race over the weekend. Check out the latest updates, as well as the Marble League and other competitions at the Jelle’s Marble Runs Youtube channel.