Football’s Covid-19 plan is almost 100% fail-proof, says compliance officer

DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA - NOVEMBER 02: Eric Mathoho during the Telkom Knockout quarter final match between Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates at Moses Mabhida Stadium on November 02, 2019 in Durban, South Africa. (Photo by Anesh Debiky/Gallo Images)

Compliant Officer for the Joint Liason Committee which put the plan together, Dr Thulani Ngwenya, is adamant there is a mere 1% chance of Covid-19 becoming a problem once games have restarted.  

Ngwenya said when the document was submitted to Fifa for verification, the world football governing body was impressed and admitted that it was the best they had seen.

“It’s been a very strenuous past few months for me and my colleagues that I work with,” Ngwenya told the South African Football Journalists Association (Safja) yesterday. “There was an issue when Safa and the PSL had differing views on the resumption of football. A Joint Liaison Committee (JLC) was then set up and I made a presentation and from that, I must be upfront and make it clear that it said due to the fact that we are facing projections that we would be at our Covid-19 infection peak in August.

“My position was that football should resume on level 1 when it is safe. But the PSL came with a different view, but they agreed that of the utmost importance is the safety of players and all those involved,” added Ngwenya.

He said the PSL raised other issues including the livelihood of players and those employed in the sector.

“There was also an issue of livelihood that was brought into the matter. The JLC then said let’s form a task team that will put together a document that will drive us forward. The PSL already had a document but I found it had some gaps, and we worked on closing those to ensure we don’t have an outbreak that would put us to shame. We formed a task team and we consulted thoroughly.

“When we sent the document to Fifa they said it was one of the best from what they ave received thus far,” said Ngwenya.

From what Ngwenya explained, and although he didn’t give any timelines, official games can possibly only start towards the end of July or even early August.

He said each team is required to appoint a compliance officer over and above having a consulting doctor. All teams – including technical support staff and players –  must be tested before they can resume training. But only the ones who test negative will start training and those who are positive will have to quarantine for 14 days.

“We are thrilled that we have seen cases of players who tested positive because it sends out the message that no one is immune to this virus. But more thrilling is that when you check the teams who have tested, you don’t have more than four players testing positive, and it tells us that the players have been disciplined and observed the regulations properly,” said Ngwenya.

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