Chief Medical Officer of the South African Football Association (SAFA), Dr Thulani Ngwenya, who is also the Association’s Covid-19 Compliance Officer, has warned clubs to be vigilant when it comes safety protocols.
On Wednesday (7 April 2021) he conducted an online COVID-19 Health and Safety Protocols workshop with several compliance officers from around the country.
This comes just ahead of the resumption of amateur football in South Africa – starting with the Sasol League this coming weekend (Saturday, 10 April 2021).
It’s been just over a year since a ball was officially kicked at amateur level in this country due to the Covid-19 Pandemic that has slowed down, but is not completely gone.
“The truth of the matter is, Covid-19 is our reality and we should learn to live with it – at least for now. So having said that, clubs must be vigilant when they resume matches. It is going to be crucial that they continue with safety protocols so as not to spread the virus and lead to another wave,” said Dr Ngwenya.
“Ideally, every team member or person participating in a match should be tested, but we know that teams unfortunately cannot afford that service – that being the case, it becomes very important that they follow the rules as prescribed regarding Covid-19, being: sanitize all the time, no sharing of equipment, masks on when you on the bench, safe distance on the bench, everyone goes home after the match unless you are playing away.”
The Bafana Bafana Medical Doctor was instrumental in the return to football of professional football in South Africa and knows the challenges.
“We came across many challenges but thanks to teamwork we were able to overcome them, so it is equally important that the same happens in amateur football – if not, we could find ourselves in trouble,” added Dr Ngwenya.
“Yes, the circumstances are the not the same – professional clubs were in a bubble, for example – but at the end of the day it is all about the fight against Covid-19 and we have to do the best we can. This is by far the biggest fight of our lives and the approach has to be consistent with safety protocols.”
Perhaps the biggest challenge at amateur level will be the spectators.
“Clubs have an unenviable task of keeping the fans away because they are not yet allowed to come and watch – but with the kind of facilities that we have in our communities (with no fencing) it is going to be a serious challenge, hence we say the clubs must be very vigilant to avoid problems,” said Dr Ngwenya.
“What makes matters worse is that fans have been longing to be allowed back into venues to watch they game they love.”
Dr Ngwenya concluded by saying all clubs should ideally appoint Compliance Officers, who will be work shopped in dealing with these issues.
SAFA is adamant that no league will kick-off without the correct measures in place.
The following preventative measures are a pre-requisite during the COVID-19 pandemic:
a) Hand hygiene: Washing hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using hand sanitizer (at least 60% alcohol), if soap and water are not available. As the virus can survive for days on surfaces, frequently touched objects and surfaces should be regularly cleaned and disinfected.
b) Social distancing: The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) describes social distancing as remaining out of congregate settings, avoiding mass gatherings, and maintain the distance (approximately 2 meters) from others when possible.
c). Face masks: The government has now made it compulsory that everyone must wear masks when leaving home. Cloth masks are recommended.
Covid-19 Safety and Match Checklist for amateur football
Covid-19 Compulsory Protocols
- Reminder that masks must be worn by everyone at the match venue at all times. This will not be applicable to players during warm-up session and playing the match.
- Goal posts, corner flags and benches must be sanitised prior to warm-up, prior to walk-in and at half-time.
- Footballs and other equipment to be used for the match must be sanitised prior to the match and during half-time.
- Anyone attending to players must wear a mask and gloves at all times.
- Only technical staff sit on the bench. Substitutes sit in rows of the stands or pitch-side behind the bench either side of the tunnel, two meters apart with masks on.
- Social distancing on the technical benches must be complied with.
- The SAFA representative must assist the Match Commissioner with overseeing compliance.
- Post-match kit collection must be done with disposable gloves, those gloves must then be disposed.
- Players must have their own water bottles or sealed bottles.
- Everyone in the dressing room must wear a mask, being at least a three-ply material mask.