Neil Humphreys: EPL cannot ignore Covid-19 crisis
Postponement of Villa-Newcastle game a grim warning
Recent events at Newcastle United and Seoul Garden prove that England and Singapore really are occupying parallel universes.
In the latest clash of cultures, practical kiasuism takes on bewildering indifference once again in the endless Covid-19 battle.
In Singapore, a family of 13 had dinner at Seoul Garden in Tampines Mall and one of them subsequently tested positive for the coronavirus. The nationwide condemnation that followed was typically swift and unforgiving.
After almost a year of this infernal pandemic, how could anyone be so unaware?
Well, hold those beers and consider the shenanigans currently playing out at Newcastle (you might as well, few people in the UK seem to care).
The Magpies confirmed that their English Premier League match against Aston Villa on Saturday morning (Singapore time) had to be postponed after a "significant increase in Covid-19 cases" in their training squad.
As euphemisms go, a "significant increase" is a rather clever way of glossing over a total that is believed to run into double figures.
Or, to put these numbers into a local context, there were more fresh infections within the Newcastle camp than there were across Singapore in the last week.
In Singapore, of course, everyone continues to wear masks as a matter of routine. In the UK, the EPL still hopes to open stadiums shortly, offering an unorthodox take on a virus still killing hundreds of people a day there.
Perhaps the English are now living in a kind of post-modern, post-Covid alternative reality of lemming-like abandonment.
Either way, looking on from afar, the EPL appears to be marching inexorably towards more postponements and maybe even shutdowns as an almost wilful insistence on looking away from the statistics takes precedence.
The socially irresponsible behaviour at Seoul Garden was headline news in Singapore, but the Newcastle postponement barely qualified for back page news in the UK.
Indeed, on several British sports media sites, it's hard to find the Newcastle story at all, with Liverpool goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher's heroics at Anfield and Arsenal defender David Luiz's head injury considered of greater news value.
Perhaps they are. Perspectives are a product of different environments.
In Singapore, one positive test in a Little Red Dot feels like one positive test too many. On Tuesday, the UK's Covid-19 death toll passed 75,000 (i.e. all fatalities that mention the disease on death certificates).
Maybe there's an element of desensitisation to the daily grimness. Death has become a way of life. Fresh cases are now stale news. There's an outbreak at Newcastle? So what? Get in line. There are hundreds of English outbreaks to choose from.
As a consequence, anyone with a vested interest in the EPL continues to focus on Liverpool rookies, head injuries and VAR in the vague hope that the Newcastle postponement might drift away from the conversation.
But the statistics suggest that the Aston Villa-Newcastle cancellation will not be the last.
Another 648 Covid sufferers died in the UK yesterday. There's a risk of sleepwalking towards a Christmas crisis.
Magpies manager Steve Bruce deserves credit for flagging his concerns for almost a week now, hinting strongly that he was uncomfortable with both the fixture going ahead and the infections spreading through his squad.
According to EPL protocols, a game can be cancelled if coronavirus infections have left a team with fewer than 15 available players.
Bruce probably had enough to send out a patched-up XI, but the protocols are focusing on the wrong end of the telescope.
Surely, the emphasis should be on the players with Covid-19, rather than the players without. Pinpointing outbreaks and isolating victims are more pressing issues than fulfilling obligations to TV schedules.
The Magpies are still refusing to name the individuals with Covid-19, a perplexing decision to say the least. Cases are identified not to name and shame but to track and trace.
Any efforts to downplay or brush aside the first postponement of an EPL match since Project Restart can only be counterproductive.
The stricken Magpies are not a one-off, but a warning. English football would be wise not to ignore it.