The South African Football Association’s head of medicalDr. Thulani Ngwenya. Picture: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix
The South African Football Association’s head of medicalDr. Thulani Ngwenya. Picture: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

Thanks to Doc Thulani Ngwenya, justice will be served in the PSL

By Mihlali Baleka Time of article published Aug 3, 2020

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JOHANNESBURG - “Hi Mihlali. I just saw this message. Today was a hectic day at the hospital.”

That was the WhatsApp I received from Safa chief of medical Thulani Ngwenya after I tried to reach out to him about the resumption of football this weekend.

This was an overwhelming yet humbling message from someone who has been under the microscope in South African football in recent weeks.

Amid the “new normal” propelled by Covid-19, Ngwenya is tasked with ensuring that all the safety and health protocols for football are followed to a T.

Ngwenya and Mlungisi Ncame are the compliance officers of the mother body.

The former was the mastermind behind ensuring that football would resume in the biologically safe environment that will house all the 32 clubs in the PSL.

That wasn’t an easy decision. The turmoil between Safa and the PSL appeared to have hit an all-time low as the latter proposed a July 18 restart, while the former remained adamant that it would be all systems go from the first week of this month.

The mother body came across as a stumbling block for the resumption as they cited the match fitness of officials considering that the league didn’t alert them of the return to training.

Ngwenya had to carry the can. The mother body was asked by the SA government to ensure that there was a seamless flow when football resumes under the “new normal”, which included testing for Covid-19 before assembling in the “bio-bubble”.

So, although it was disappointing that Ngwenya’s phone rang unanswered yesterday, he had initially stated that he would be busy. “(In the morning), I’m going for the medicals of referees starting at 9am,” Ngwenya said

Safa will be responsible for the transportation and accommodation of referees in the “bio-bubble”, but they are a step ahead as they reported for their health and safety testing protocols in Johannesburg three weeks ago.

Sure, there may have been positive Covid-19 cases, which were fortunately asymptomatic, but they are in good hands as Ngwenya was busy with everyone’s progress yesterday afternoon, saying: “I’m busy with the referees”, after missing his appointment with me.

The pandemic has brought SA to a standstill for the last five months, but it is great news that, thanks to the consensus between Safa and the PSL, football will resume at Orlando Stadium on Saturday with the Nedbank Cup semi-finals.

Baroka FC and Bloemfontein Celtic will raise the curtain on the double-header in Soweto, while Mamelodi Sundowns and Wits will compete for a place in the final of SA’s premier club knockout competition on Saturday night.

Thanks to people like Ngwenya, justice will be served as the rightful champions of the PSL, relegated clubs and top-eight qualifiers will be decided when the season concludes on September 5.

Meanwhile, the GladAfrica Championship is scheduled to resume on Sunday and conclude on August 30 when the top-of-the-table team will be automatically promoted, while the second and third placed sides will play in the PSL promotion/relegation playoffs.

@Mihlalibaleka

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