Orlando Pirates’ official website sent social media into a frenzy when they announced that one of their players, influential midfielder Ben Motshwari, had tested positive for the Coronavirus that has brought the whole world to a standstill.
According to the club, Motshwari had experienced flu-like symptoms a week before he was tested for the virus, with the results confirming his worst fear that he was indeed positive. Knowing how fickle and brutal social media can be, the announcement, like any other, evoked a lot of emotions, with some expressing their support and well-wishes for the speedy recovery of the Randfontein-born midfielder, while a few others decided to make a mockery of the situation. "The player is asymptomatic and is currently in-home isolation for the next 14 days. He will need to test negative before he is cleared. In accordance with relevant protocols, NHI has been notified of the case by the Club. The health and wellbeing of our players, officials, and the wider community remains our highest priority in this difficult time. The Club has also advised that the player must notify the doctors of all the people that he has been in contact with to ensure that they also get tested. We urge everybody to continue practicing safe and healthy measures to contain and mitigate the spread of the infection. Always wash your hands; wear masks in public and always remember to practice social distancing," read the club’s statement, in part.
At face value, it is easy for anyone to ask why Pirates had to go public with this sensitive piece of information, fearing that the player’s privacy might have been invaded and therefore he’d been put out to danger by the club. However, you have to give credit to the former double treble-winning Bucs for coming out and making this bold announcement despite a potential backlash on their part. It could have been easy for Pirates to sweep the case under the carpet and deal with it privately. Nothing would have happened and no one, other than the two parties and their close associates, would have known about the player’s ill-health. I’m sure a lot of people are of the opinion that the club should have done the latter and kept quiet about the matter. I disagree! Why am I supporting Bucs’ standpoint on the matter? You may be wondering. Motshwari is a public figure and therefore anything happening to him has to be communicated to the club’s supporters and his own. They need to know what’s going on about their player. Pirates is one of the biggest clubs in the country, and in Africa for that matter, and they have a role to play in educating and encouraging people to fight this pandemic. When a player like Motshwari, or any other footballer for that matter, tests positive, it becomes of public interest. The announcement further sends out a warning that this virus doesn’t discriminate against anyone and therefore everyone is vulnerable. I’m sure the club sat the player down, either personally or virtually, to discuss his results and the way forward. I don’t think the club would make such a sensitive announcement without engaging with the player. Surely Motshwari had a say in his medical situation being made public, otherwise the announcement would have caused more damage than good.
I’m sure people have now started to look at this virus differently and understand just how much everyone is prone to getting it. The amiable Stiga, as Motshwari is affectionately known, didn’t go out looking for the virus. If it was up to him, he surely would have avoided it completely, but that was just impossible. One hopes that his teammates and colleagues from all the other teams keep in touch with him because he is going to need all the support he can get. I hope they’re not going to start ‘social distancing’ themselves from him just because he tested positive. He needs them now more than ever. We live in a society where the PhD (Pull him Down) syndrome is so rife. We are very quick to judge, discriminate and label those who are suffering, especially from a medical condition. People living with HIV are perpetual victims of this stigmatisation when all they need is support and encouragement. Don’t label Motshwari and those suffering from COVID-19 and any other virus for that matter. Once again, no one goes out looking for these things to happen to them, but that doesn’t mean they won’t happen. Let’s learn to support our ill more than becoming unofficial medical experts who have a lot to say when they know little to nothing about these medial conditions.
It is this behaviour that will ensure that this virus continues to spread unabated because everyone is aware of the stigma being subjected on the infected. Subsequent to this behaviour, people will be reluctant to get tested or even share their health concerns because, naturally, no one wants to go through public scrutiny. With more support, everyone would be quick to go get tested as soon as they don’t feel well, but they end up choosing to suffer in silence rather than putting themselves up for abuse. That’s very sad because if people tested early, they’d stand a better chance of recovery, where applicable, and start looking after themselves even better. When you’re ill but don’t know it, there’s a tendency to keep a low profile and take it one day at a time. A lot of people have gotten worse when they could have been helped easier had they opened up about their situation earlier.
People don’t stop being a part of us just because they fall ill or get infected with a virus. I hope Motshwari is doing well with his recovery, as he recently provided an update on regaining his full health, through a video posted on the club’s official social media accounts. He seemed to be doing well, but the support will go a long way in seeing Motshwari and other COVID-19 victims bouncing back from this pandemic. Let’s support and encourage them because they need the assurance that they will be back to full health sooner rather than later. Speedy recovery to Ben and everyone going through this pandemic. Just hang in there, follow the strict medical instructions and you will be back before you know it. To everyone out there, let’s please stay safe so that we can flatten the curve. We have the power to determine whether this virus continues to spread or we stop it in its tracks. Let’s all stay safe, wash our hands regularly and sanitise.