Chiefs and Sundowns coaches support government’s plan to get vaccinated fans into stadiums
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CAPE TOWN KAIZER Chiefs coach Stuart Baxter would not mind heckling from the Amakhosi supporters about being a “useless coach” if that means vaccinated fans can return to football stadia fairly soon.
Baxter, speaking ahead of the crunch Dstv Premiership clash against champions Mamelodi Sundowns on Sunday at Loftus Versveld, believes that fans are the “life blood” of football clubs and that they have been dearly missed for the past year in South African due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We miss them so badly. If the clubs are the muscles and bones, then the supporters are the blood. And without that blood pumping in our bodies, then we feel very, very weak,” Baxter said.
“The politicians will do their thing, and do their best to find the safest way I am sure to get people into stadiums. I know that’s been a challenge to find a safe way because we’ve gone up one path and it closed, and then we went another way and that was closed, but I am sure the people who know best will find a way to get people back in the stadium. I know I can’t wait. Maybe sometimes you hear that you’re a useless coach ringing in your ears, but I’ll take that.”
Sundowns co-coach Rhulani Mokwena echoed his Chiefs counterpart’s views, especially with the return of vaccinated spectators to stadiums in Europe.
“We’re excited. We can’t wait to have to have the supporters back with us. We want the Masandawana’s back with us. If it takes being vaccinated to get that feeling back in the stadium … I mean if you watch the Euro qualifiers, the English Premiership and La Liga, then the game feels a lot different because of the energy that is imparted by the spectators … you just think ‘Goodness me, I can’t wait to experience the same.’
“We’re excited and hopefully this means we are moving in a direction of normalising things and the normality of football, and the normality of football means the game belongs to the supporters. We are in support, if it means we are moving in the direction where we can have bums on seats, then we will always support that motion,” Mokwena said.
There has been a positive moment in relation to the return of fans to sports stadiums in South Africa this week after the national government officially launched the “It is in your hands” vaccination social mobilisation campaign at the FNB Stadium - home of the 2010 Fifa World Cup final.
The motive behind the campaign is to increase the vaccination numbers in the country in a bid to reach herd immunity, which is close to 40 million people. Currently, only 6.75 million people, approximately 12% of the population, have been vaccinated.