The Premier Soccer League’s silence with regards to Kaizer Chiefs’ situation, where they missed two league matches – home against Cape Town City and away to Golden Arrows – due to COVID-19-related reasons has rather been too loud!
Amakhosi first confirmed that they had 31 positive cases at their Naturena base! A staggering 31 COVID-19 positive cases! They also confirmed that they had communicated with the League to request a postponement of their five league matches that were due to take place in the month of December. A few days later, the number of the positive cases increased to 48 and the club, like they’d done before, dully pronounced on the developments via another press statement and subsequently closed their base, also known as Chiefs Village, temporarily to allow the deep-cleaning and disinfecting process to be undertaken.
Chiefs needed dot all the i’s and cross the t’s in their efforts to curb any further spread of the virus among the players and staff at Naturena as well as avoiding the risk of putting the opposition’s health in jeopardy by engaging in football matches with the virus still lingering over the club. A noble and commendable gesture from them because, to borrow from the club’s legend – Doctor Khumalo – “believe it or not,” it is not every day that the real numbers of infections are made public. Almost, if not all, every PSL team has had to deal with this pandemic, but not all of them have been as transparent about the numbers. With the new variant, Omicron, surfacing and Gauteng continuing to be the epicenter of the fourth wave in South Africa, with the province having reported a staggering 16, 700 cases of the just over 18, 000 cases at the time of writing, it stands to reason that every possible step should be taken to curb any potential spread of this pandemic.
Since that communication from Chiefs, nothing has been forthcoming from the League. The first game for Amakhosi was a much-anticipated clash against Cape Town City, but even with matchday approaching, there was no official word from the League, notwithstanding Chiefs’ press statement. The Citizens flew to Johannesburg in preparation for the game, as usual, only to be met with locked gates at FNB Stadium with neither Chiefs nor the League in sight! They had to go back without even walking into the match venue, let alone run into the field. What happened to that game? SuperSport TV presenters announced that the game had been postponed, which will explain why there were no broadcast trucks and cameras at the venue. Was the game postponed? Definitely not, otherwise City wouldn’t have even bothered to board a plane in the first place. Did Chiefs forfeit the three points for not honouring the fixture? No! Why? Because there has been no communication on the matter from the League. The League’s official website or social media platforms didn’t say anything about the game being postponed. Did SuperSport, with the League being sponsored by and known as the DStv Premiership, know something that the rest of us didn’t know?
Chiefs were then due to travel to Durban to visit Arrows, but Amakhosi made it clear that they were not going to get anywhere near OR Tambo International Airport to leave Gauteng, let alone even put a team together, because of the very same reasons they couldn’t play the City game for. Unlike the previous game, this one was ‘postponed’ according to the League’s official website fixtures list, albeit that ‘postponement’ lasted no longer than a day before it was removed. Luckily, Soccer Laduma had already taken a screenshot of the ‘postponement’, which has since, unfortunately been removed. As we all know, the game never took place and added on the confusion that has sent the supporters on a wild goose chase! It is rather unfortunate that there’s been no communication from the powers that be from the Parktown-based headquarters. While the League Chairman, Dr Irvin Khoza, confirmed that the Chiefs matter was being dealt with, it is certainly not enough to make such statements as an ‘afterthought’. When the League invited the media and the public to a virtual press conference on Monday 13 December, one would have been forgiven for expecting the League to finally shed some light on the burning Chiefs-City-Arrows issue as well as the impact this pandemic has had, only to learn that the conference had nothing to do with it.
Manchester United issued a statement on the postponement of their league match away to Brentford FC and it is clear from the team’s press release that there was consultation and agreement from all parties involved. A completely different picture to what we’ve witnessed from our league. “Manchester United can confirm that our Premier League fixture at Brentford FC, on Tuesday 14 December at 19:30, has been postponed and will be rescheduled in due course. Following PCR confirmation of positive LFT Covid-19 tests among the first-team staff and players, the outbreak requires ongoing surveillance. A decision was taken to close first-team operations at the Carrington Training Complex for 24 hours to help minimise risk of further infection, and individuals who tested positive are isolating in line with Premier League protocols. Given cancellation of training and disruption to the squad, and with the health of players and staff the priority, the Club requested the match to be rearranged. The Premier League Board took the decision to postpone based on guidance from medical advisors. Manchester United regrets the inconvenience caused to Brentford FC and to the fans of both clubs by Covid-19.”
As mentioned earlier, there are so many unanswered questions to this situation. How did Chiefs, as a club, get to 31 infections in the first place? What’s their daily COVID-19 protocol? Why has it been so difficult for the League to make a statement or ruling on the matter and let everyone know what’s going on? Why allow Chiefs to be the only ones disseminating the information to the public when they are actually operating under the League? Why has there been no direction from the League to the supporters and other stakeholders, at least? Surely there must have been back-and-forth communication between the League and the clubs, although what happened with the Citizens casts doubt on this statement. It wouldn’t hurt anyone for the League to share the information with the public, especially considering the fact that there was a precedent set with Cape Umoya last season, when they found themselves in a similar position. It is situations like these that drag the League’s name through the mud after all the hard work that has been put into making this league one of the best in the world. At the end of the day, leadership is best required when it is not fashionable to lead. Leadership is more important when unpopular decisions must be made and that’s the benchmark of any leadership role.
This COVID-19 debacle has exposed us in a big way. There’s a huge health risk involved with a potential super spread of this virus if things are not done correctly. We need to meet each other halfway and ensure that the spread of this virus is mitigated. It doesn’t hurt anyone to keep the information flowing and the League can certainly do better on that. It isn’t fair on anyone to be left in the dark just like that. Have the Chiefs players been cleared to play or was the club’s hand forced, regardless of their thoughtful stance against potential infection to the opposition?
On a separate note, this is the last edition of Soccer Laduma for 2021 and we would like to wish you a Merry Christmas and a prosperous 2022. We hope you will enjoy the festive break responsibly, especially with COVID-19 still in our midst, so that we are all back in one piece next year. The first edition of January will be on sale on January 5, please look out for it. Thank you so much for the wonderful support, we really appreciate it.