CAPE TOWN - Sports, arts and culture minister Nathi Mthethwa has cautioned national football against downplaying the health risk while aggressively pursuing a return to league action.
Mthethwa was the voice of reason when he participated in Monday’s meeting of Safa’s joint liaison committee (JLC) at Safa House in Johannesburg. Safa president Danny Jordaan said the minister was clear in his position on the issue of resuming football during Covid-19e.
“I fully appreciate what the minister was saying,” said Jordaan. “On the one side you have life and on the other side, you have a livelihood.
“It’s something we must have uppermost in our minds because the one (livelihood) we can recover and the other (life) we can’t recover.
“In light of this, we are dealing with a very serious matter and this has to be uppermost in our minds when we consider the way forward.”
After the meeting, Safa issued a statement which in part read: “Minister Mthethwa participated briefly in the meeting on Monday and emphasised the need to balance the health of football stakeholders and the economic impact Covid-19 has had on the game.”
Mthethwa also advised Safa and the National Soccer League (NSL), the two role players in the JLC, to meet with the ministers of health (Zwelini Mkhize) and transport (Fikile Mbalula) to ensure they are fully au fait with regulations and restrictions in these two spaces (health and transport) during the Covid-19 lockdown.
The JLC-appointed task team on Monday presented its report which outlines the protocols and specific conditions for the resumption of football matches.
The meeting approved the report which will now provide the sheet anchor for a document labelled “Return to Play” which will ultimately be presented to Mthethwa, the South African government’s representative.
Apart from the meetings with Mkhize and Mbalula, the task team will have another audience with Mthethwa to ensure that national football has covered all the bases by the time they have finalised the document.
Until such time the government gives football the green light, local professional teams cannot return to training.
If teams did start training ahead of the go-ahead, it would be “jumping the gun” said a national soccer official. It was agreed that Jordaan and NSL chairman Irvin Khoza will be tasked with presenting the “Return to Play” document to Mthethwa. It is expected this hand-over will take place in just over a week.
Meanwhile, the JLC will also have to consider Fifa’s risk assessment tool which was sent on to its 211 member associations and six continental confederations on Monday. The risk assessment tool aims to help facilitate a safe return to football following the Covid-19 pandemic.
Fifa has called on input from the WHO, Uefa, the European Club Association (ECA), FIFPro, the World Leagues Forum and European leagues in drawing up the tool.
It includes a list of mitigation measures that aim to reduce the overall risk of mass gatherings contributing to the spread of Covid-19, as well as indications for individual and group training by football teams.
Fifa’s latest input will ensure a measure of uniformity in the way football will operate around the world, and SA will be looking to toe the line in that regard.