If there’s one thing – among a long list of lessons – the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic has taught us, it is the need for cool heads!
It is often said that you can’t beat an opponent that you don’t know. That means you need to spend time analysing and familiarising yourself with your opponent in order to know their strengths and weaknesses. If you’re arrogant and ignorant enough not to take time to know the opposition, then you stand a good chance of a massive surprise and getting shocked. Such comes when least expected.
That’s what comes to mind when thinking of the COVID-19 pandemic because it has really exposed a lot of shortcomings, especially when it comes to leadership of all disciplines. The back-and-forth about schools re-opening and then not re-opening before they’re due to re-open again is just one of many contradicting messages that speak to the massive leadership vacuum that needs to be filled. The fact that some schools, mostly from black and previously disadvantaged communities, are still without running water, personal protective equipment and are still expected to continue with teaching and learning will surely bring more pain and misery than academic excellence. It will surely undo all the hard work already done in the fight against this pandemic. That one Port Elizabeth-based school is said to have already closed because of one confirmed Coronavirus case is just the tip of the iceberg, sadly! We can brace ourselves for more and more infections because clearly, someone is seemingly arrogant and ignorant enough not to take time to know the opposition – the virus – and thinks schools are a safe haven, better than our homes.
When the Minister of Sports, Arts and Culture, the honourable Nkosinathi Mthethwa, announced that contact and non-contact sport could resume training as of June 1, as the country moved to Level 3 of the lockdown, many seemed to think there was an opportunity to exploit the strict safety precautions and regulations as pronounced by government. Many seemed to miss the very crucial part of the address, which clearly stated and emphasised that contact sports such as football and rugby would only be limited to returning to training, while non-contact sports, like tennis and cricket, can return to training and begin staging games behind closed doors. No sooner had that announcement been made than a number of Local Football Associations’ teams started organising matches in an attempt to keep their teams active. While these are unofficial games, the buck stops with the Associations to ensure that sanity continues to prevail. No lives must be risked because people just can’t act responsible enough to play their part in this battle. That’s gross negligence and misrepresentation of the Minister’s address and a further cry for cool heads because, after almost three months without football, with the country’s economy and clubs hit hard by the pandemic, the last thing we need is to take 20 steps back and find ourselves even worse off than we were a month ago. We have to pull out all the stops to ensure that we do right and fight this battle with everything we have, so that we can get back to normal lives. That’s what we need to take from President Cyril Ramaphosa’s recent statement that it is now in our hands. Let’s not wait for the government to fight the virus for us but met them halfway.
So much has been done and sacrificed to ensure that we combat this virus, but if we become reckless now it would be like giving up the fight when you’re so close to winning. Even with professional teams returning to training, not all of them have ticked the stringent boxes before they can pronounce their readiness. They have to comply fully to all the conditions before any group training can take place. While they are all getting the same monthly grant from the League, they are not on the same level financially and the resources are mostly chalk and cheese. While one team may have a full medical staff complement, the same can’t be said about the other teams and therefore all the playing fields have to be levelled before we can even think of going back to the field. Lives of players and everyone involved are more important than returning to the field of play. No price can cover the people’s lives and that’s why we have to thread carefully when it comes to group activities. We need cool heads to understand this and make sure that we stick by the rules. We have done so much to drop the ball now, we just can’t afford to risk it all at the end.
Now is the time for both South African Football Association and the powers that be at the PSL to put their heads together and chart the way forward. Mixed and sometimes conflicting messages are doing more harm than good. As the mother body and the professional league, we must speak the same language and ensure that a consistent message is filtered through to all the different leagues so that the hard work done so far doesn’t go down the drain. We are almost there, but we just can’t afford to do things we will regret later. It is great news that Orlando Pirates have confirmed the full recovery for influential midfielder, Ben Motshwari, from the Coronavirus and we hope he will continue from where he’s left off. If there’s anything one can learn from his experience, it is that this virus doesn’t discriminate against anyone but, more importantly, it can be defeated. As long as you play your part and do what’s right, then you can either avoid or recover from it. Let’s all do this together to make sure that we celebrate after the final whistle has gone, rather than looking back and counting bodies that would have been lost in the battle.