Stellies planning to hit the ground running when PSL restarts
CAPE TOWN – Stellenbosch FC will hit the ground running when the PSL resumes for competitive football after a prolonged Covid-19-enforced shutdown.
Steve Barker, head coach of the Winelands-based team, is confident that the groundwork done during the two months of the national lockdown, will stand the players in good stead.
“We have had regular contact with the players, almost daily,” said Barker. “The technical staff and medical staff hooked up regularly to ensure that the guidelines were followed.
“I was happy with the commitment of the players during this period. They have complied with the training programs which were tailor made for them.”
Over the weekend, South Africa’s sports, arts and culture minister Nathi Mthethwa announced that professional soccer training could resume under strict specific conditions. There is still no indication when the game will resume competitively.
It is nine weeks ago that training came to a standstill due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, Barker is pleased that his charges will return to the training ground.
“The initial plan would be to assess where the players are at in terms of fitness levels,” said Barker. “The sessions will be guided by the regulations around training. Shorter and sharper sessions will be the order of the day as we resume individual or small-group training.”
The staff at the training ground will ensure protocols for precautionary measures are strictly implemented and adhered to, in order to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
“Regarding masks and personal protective equipment (PPE) we will be guided by the directives,” said Barker. “We will ensure we do not expose ourselves or the players to any health risks.”
There is no indication when the league will resume, but Barker said Stellenbosch will be ready when it finally happens.
“We will be happy to resume the league,” said Barker. “There will be guidelines to allow us to play, and the safety of all concerned would have been taken into consideration. As long as everyone adheres, I’ll be a happy man.
“It is difficult to put a date on when play will resume. This will be decided by the lockdown levels and with time, more informed decisions will be made closer to kick-off.”
Our #MondayMotivation goes out to @Ru1_RUST and his team for their incredible work done behind the scenes, keeping our players engaged holistically throughout the National Lockdown. Well done team 👏👏👏#StellenboschFC #ProudlyStellenbosch #HighPerformance#Lockdown pic.twitter.com/p9WFLrYDqC— Stellenbosch FC (@StellenboschFC) June 1, 2020
The two-month-long break has given Barker a chance to assess the strength and weaknesses of his squad. This will influence recruitment decisions when next the transfer window opens. “We will always look to improve our squad,” said the well-travelled Barker, who previously coached AmaZulu and the University of Pretoria after a playing career at Wits and SuperSport United.
“Every window allows you to improve the squad, and it will be no different next time. We are happy where we are as a squad, and no major overhauls will be required.”
Since the start of lockdown, players have been taught to adhere to social distancing guidelines and follow public health regulations. “The club has constantly educated the players around Covid-19 and what is required to be safe. This area has been of high focus and our medical staff have been outstanding in this regard,” said Barker.
Barker is a household name in South African soccer because of the unrivalled feats of Clive Barker, who is Mzansi’s only coach to have won the African Cup of Nations. Barker is a nephew of the legendary coach who is affectionately known as the “The Dog”.
“He continues to serve as an inspiration to us all,” said Barker. “He has done immense work for SA football and is still very much loved by all. When I need advice, he is never more than a phone call away.”