Football lives matter, so call off the season
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CAPE TOWN – Earlier this week, football fans were agog at the thought that the government had given the green light for the PSL to resume.
Tuesday’s early morning television and radio stations were acting on a government media release headlined "Approval of the resumption of football". The release had been distributed to football’s stakeholders.
As it turned out, the headline was shy of a word and should have read: "Approval of the resumption of football training".
This release was not unlike other recent government media releases around Covid-19, which has often prompted commentators to declare that the communiqué was not fundamentally clear.
As a result, often announcements would be followed by "live TV" sessions in which government experts try to bring clarity to matters a day or two later.
The news generated excitement but also raised false hope. There was a good case for saying it fell into the realms of fake news.
And if this fake news thought had crossed the minds of knowledgeable fans, they may have been persuaded that they were on the right track after reading the start of the media release’s second paragraph which starts: "The plans of the Premier Soccer League have been approved, considering the mitigation strategies..."
The PSL has never submitted plans to the government, which is something known to knowledgeable fans and the informed media.
The PSL’s only authorised government contact is via the country’s football controlling body the South African Football Association, or the Joint Liaison Committee (JLC) made up of representatives of Safa and its special member, the National Soccer League (NSL).
The plans the government referred to were drawn up by the JLC. The government has been alerted that the plans were not drawn up by the PSL.
Safa has already called off amateur football for the season, but the NSL, which represents football’s paid ranks and includes the PSL and Championship, or national first division, have not given up hope of completing the domestic season.
The biggest challenge facing professional football in SA as they attempt to restart is the geographic position of teams. The matter of geography was not a challenge in countries where pro football has resumed.
In South Africa, Cape Town-based teams fly out to play fixtures in the rest of the country. It is the same for non-Cape Town teams who need to play in the Mother City.
For this reason, the PSL has come up with a ‘bio bubble’ concept which will see all teams moving from across SA to a centralised location.
The position of a centralised location is still very much up in the air with Gauteng or KwaZulu-Natal the likely destination.
It would seem that since football’s stakeholders have been unable to synchronise structured plans to maximise the probability of competition ultimately resuming, it may be best to do what Safa did with amateur football – call off football for the rest of the season.
That way, the paid ranks of SA’s football will show commitment to protecting the health of their fraternity, rather than pursue what appears to be an obsession of making money at a time when the country is still trying to cope with the pandemic.
Ultimately, they must concur that football lives matter!