Mbabane: The last time football opinions were these diverse was when Adam ‘Bomber’ Mthethwa was seeking re-election as EFA president back in 2017.
With astute and massively experienced administrators like once EFA vice presidents Timothy ‘Tim’ Shongwe and Mashumi Shongwe all gunning for the biggest seat at Sigwaca House, it is now history that Mthethwa was re-elected for the umpteenth time at a tensioned filled Sibane Hotel conference room. Now after Coronavirus swept past the world, threatening human life of all races, sending billions of people into lockdown- the biggest question is if Eswatini football, after everything can resume its footballing season.
As affirmed by Mthethwa in a hastily arranged press conference at Sigwaca, football activities remain banned in the country. At some circles, there has been a call for the currently halted season to be declared null and void. Sudan in Northern Africa has done so but according to the life-long EFA chief, Mthethwa, that will be a premature decision. The president was at pains explaining how Ambrose Mandvulo Dlamini’s led government will provide guidelines on the situation but the reality is that, Eswatini under the current status with over 200 confirmed cases allow a gathering of 20 or less people.
Never mind fans for now, but a football match is played by 22 players for 90 or more minutes with, at the very least 10 on each technical bench. The 10 includes coaches, medical people and a pool of seven substitutes. That already defeats government’s Covid-19 regulations.
Premier League of Eswatini (PLE) Chief Operations Officer Pat Vilakati put it frankly when he said their members (clubs) cannot afford to play behind closed doors. Even if that decision was to be taken according to Vilakati, a lot of stakeholders would have to be involved.
EFA sent out its Medical Committee headed by vice president Dr Comfort Shongwe to deliver a detailed report on how best the season can be resume under the safest guidelines. The reality is that EFA do not in any way want to be charged of manslaughter in the event a soul is lost. It is a difficult one. Burundi resumed their season last Thursday and Tanzania prepares to be the second African nation to restart on June 1.
Restarting will mean premier league clubs will have to quarantine their players, do regular temperature test and that of course will mean every club must have at least one kit.
Dressing rooms will have to be disinfected before kick-off, at halftime and after matches.
Also, fans will have to be checked at gates.
It calls for a big budget from EFA for all these but luckily, FIFA has already announced that it will be distributing over E9 million to each member association in what was termed ‘the Covid-19 relief fund’.
The reality is that in every competition, there must be a winner and a loser. Mthethwa was confident in his briefing that those who will want the season to continue will be the majority but there are many variables in it.