A lot can happen in a space of a week! Just last week, Minister of Sports, Arts and Culture, Honourable Nathi Mthethwa, gave an all-clear for the Absa Premiership to resume after almost four months of inactivity due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
While the news of the Minister’s approval brought a huge sigh of relief, it was the increasing number of confirmed cases of the Coronavirus in the professional ranks that got people talking and worried. With the pandemic expected to rise in this winter season period, these positive cases will surely put a spanner in the works for the League as they’ve been working tirelessly to ensure that the season does come to a close eventually. With almost 10 positive cases, no one can turn a blind eye to this increasing statistic and this poses a new and bigger challenge to the Executive Committee. Do we resume the season or not? That’s the million-dollar question.
Playing behind closed doors was, until this new challenge surfaced, the best possible solution to the problem, but things have suddenly changed. Even playing behind closed doors doesn’t guarantee safety nor does it minimize the chances of the potential spread of the virus. Teams are expected to carry out regular tests as part of the precautionary measures and the fact that the virus’s visibility has to do with one’s immune system does throw a curveball. There are positive cases that are without symptoms, which are called asymptomatic. Simply put, these are people who are carrying the virus without even knowing it because they don’t produce or show the symptoms that are synonymous with the virus. Just because you don’t show signs doesn’t mean you’re safe – you might have this virus without knowing it!
Remember, the last thing the League wants is to expose players or anyone involved with the game to this pandemic, especially after sacrificing more than three months of the league already, trying to eliminate the potential spread of the virus among those involved with the game. It is safe to say this virus has caught us with our pants down, but we have to continue to soldier on. No one saw this coming and while it came at a relatively better time for the Belgian League, for instance, the same can’t be said about ours. I’m not, in any way, belittling the impact of this virus, as there can never be a right time for it, but in terms of the league programme, the Absa Premiership would’ve definitely loved to be where the Belgian Pro League was when this pandemic broke. Unlike our league, where eight rounds of fixtures still need to be played, the Belgians were only one round of fixtures away from completing the season when the lockdown began. That made it easy for them to decide on who gets what, as all the teams could only get three points – at best – unlike 24 points still to play for. That’s why I feel the Belgians were lucky, in a way, because it didn’t take long for them to decide on what to do because theirs was an easy decision to make.
Much as everyone would like to see the season come to a close, people’s lives and safety should always come first. Now spare a thought for the League’s Executive Committee that has to give direction in such trying times, without compromising the league’s reputation, keeping the sponsors happy and ensuring that all the teams buy into whatever decision they arrive at. If ever there was a time that our leadership earned their keep, it is now! The balancing act that they have to do is not for the faint-hearted and they’re expected to make everyone happy, an impossible task. This calls for cool heads and leads us back to a similar call to action to the one I made in last week’s column. As members of the Soccer Laduma family, especially the Supporters Club, let’s please continue to spread the message about the safety and precautionary measures that need to be taken in order to minimise the risk of infection. Guys, winter is the best time for any virus and the numbers are expected to spike remarkably and no one wants to become a statistic, but the sad reality is that some of us will, directly or indirectly. We have to play our part in ensuring that we protect ourselves and our loved ones by not exposing ourselves unnecessarily to the risk of contracting this virus and unwittingly sharing it with the loved ones. Those who have tested positive, let us no hide it and, instead, try to ‘live a normal life’ because that puts even more people at risk. You test positive, do the right thing and quarantine or go to the nearest health facility so that you quarantine at a demarcated area. Let us also not stigmatise those who have tested positive because this also has a negative impact on the society. A Coronavirus positive person doesn’t cease to be a human being, they remain one of us and our own. This virus doesn’t discriminate and discriminating isn’t going to help our cause.
We need to unite and play our individual part, which will ultimately impact positively on the overall effort to win this battle. Before we think about the league’s resumption, let’s take great care of ourselves and that will go a long way in decreasing the worrying numbers. We can do this and it is really in our own hands now. People are dying and some of them were taking great care of themselves and got infected through reckless loved ones and that’s not fair. We need to protect one another and keep our eyes on the ball, the virus, so that we get back to our normal lives again soon. When the league resumes, we all have to be there to witness it. Don’t compromise your health and safety by being reckless, stay safe and protect your loved ones from this pandemic so that we all live to see the completion of the historic and eventful 2019/2020 season.