It has been more than a month since the last round of fixtures in the inaugural DStv Premiership, on June 5, when Mamelodi Sundowns were officially crowned league champions for the fourth time in a row.
Since then, a lot has happened, with the controversial promotional/relegation play-offs finally completed, or so we think, two weeks ago. Now, most of the elite league teams are back in pre-season from this past week, in preparation for the new season after enjoying some time off. However, we are yet to find out about the new campaign’s fixture list as the powers that be are yet to announce the start date of the 2021/22 season.
Understandably so, we don’t know as yet when the season will commence because there’s a lot for the League to consider. Number one, there’s this big elephant in the room, the protracted Royal AM matter, which is far from over and yet to be concluded. It does have a bearing on the proceedings. The delayed play-offs didn’t help either, even though Chippa United will be happy to have retained their topflight status albeit under controversial circumstances with AM not honouring their fixtures. Essentially, it was between Chippa and Richards Bay FC to battle it out for the spot in the elite league, which saw Chippa win the ‘mini-league’.
Number two, there’s also the ever-increasing COVID-19 infections, especially in Gauteng, which will also pose a serious threat to the planning and execution process for the League. The sad reality is that this pandemic isn’t going anywhere anytime soon and that’s a curve ball to the League and the resumption of the new season. With Gauteng being the epicenter, the same Gauteng that housed all the teams in the bio-bubble towards the end of last season, it spells disaster because whether you want to admit it or not, Gauteng is the home of South African football! It was financially straining to house the DStv Premiership and GladAfrica Championship teams during the bio-bubble at the tail end of the 219/22 campaign. It will be a whole different story to do that same exercise for the whole season. Imagine 32 teams kept in a bio-bubble for nine months! That would be a logistical nightmare and a financially impossible situation for the League, and most – if not all – of the teams.
Now we find ourselves at a stage where we expect to hear from the League as to when the new season will start, but alas, no communication has been coming through. Even the first block of fixtures is yet to be known. The funny thing is that pre-season training has to be planned properly. There are stages of preparation that need to be undertaken as this crucial stage of the season gets fragmented into different phases. To do that, you need timeframes to work towards. At the moment, even the teams that are already in pre-season camps now – unless there’s been behind-the-scenes communication from the PSL – don’t know when the new season will start. At face value, that means nothing, the season will start whenever it does and the most important thing is for the teams to get ready and they are doing just that in their pre-season camps. However, that’s way off the mark because each and every stage of pre-season has got timeframes because, by virtue of it being called pre-season, it simply means you are preparing for the new season. How do you prepare for an exam when you don’t even know when the actual exam is taking place? That’s exactly the point I’m trying to illustrate here.
The respective technical teams have a very difficult task of ensuring that they keep their players focused all the time to make sure that they are thoroughly prepared. Once again, preparing them for what? For when? What are the timeframes? You need eight weeks of proper pre-season, where you gradually get your team ready through each and every phase of your camp. You have to have timeframes because you can’t just take players on a three-month training camp, for instance.
One hopes there’s a lot of working going down at the PSL offices to make sure that we get the new season underway as soon as possible because their silence has been too loud. The last thing we need is not knowing whether we are coming or going, but one hopes the ducks are being put in a row so that we know what lies ahead.
There’s really a lot to consider before we can even start thinking about the start of the new season because of the points made so far. Once again, one hopes that we will see the start of the new season soon, while no one really knows how that is going to play itself out. The sooner we get some sort of communication or clarity from the rulers of the game, the better so that we can prepare ourselves and that can also allay any potential fears we may have. We need to prepare ourselves for the best or, God forbid, the worst if need be. At the moment, all we know is that the clock is ticking and we’d hate to be caught with our pants down. Here’s hoping that we will be rolling a red carpet for 2021/22 season soon, so that we can enjoy the Beautiful Game.
Surely the past season was tough for football-loving people who were forced to watch their favorite teams on television for the whole campaign, instead of going to the stadiums, due to this pandemic. It was an unbearable situation because watching on television isn’t the same as being at the stadium. However, guys, we have to do a lot more to try and flatten the curve. It will take our united effort to fight this pandemic to get us through this difficult and unprecedented period in our lives. Let us all do what we need to do to stay safe and fight this pandemic with everything we have. One would have expected us to be back at the stadiums by now, but things are just getting worse instead of improving. We have lost so many lives and jobs already, we need to hold hands and commit to playing our part in fighting this pandemic. We also have to preach peace and love especially in the heartbreaking situation our beloved country finds itself in. This is just too much, guys and we, as football people, need to stand up and show leadership and guidance where it is lacking. If we can’t do it for ourselves, let’s please do it for our kids.
As a parting shot, good luck to Kaizer Chiefs as they fly the South African flag high in the CAF Champions League final against Al Ahly in Morocco this Saturday. Go out there and continue with your impressive run in this competition, knowing that you’ve earned your right to be in the final. That you’ve not played any competitive game since the semi-finals, while Ahly last played a league game on Sunday, shouldn’t be a major concern. You can do this!