September 25, 2021

Covid-19: When will the PSL return?

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The league has released a full list of fixtures, dates and kickoff times for the remaining matches of the season

The coronavirus lockdown is still on alert Level 3 in South Africa but football will return in the first week of August, PSL chairman Dr Irvin Khoza announced. 

Over four weeks ago, Sports Minister Nathi Mthethwa granted all the PSL teams permission to return to training under stringent measures.   

The PSL had always been optimistic of completing the current campaign but they have had to move from wanting to complete the season from July 31 to August 31. 

However, the South African Football Association (Safa) has been given the authority to extend the season beyond August 31. 

Following the release of the revised fixture list on Thursday, the season will go on until the first week of September. 

The players and officials have already undergone the tests – and it’s unclear how many positive cases there is in both the PSL and NFD but Khoza made it clear that whoever is positive will not be allowed into the bio-bubble when the season resumes. 

The majority of teams have already complied with the government’s regulations – be it appointing compliance officers, testing of the players and fumigating their training facilities. 

Khoza confirmed that only one team had not complied on Monday, revealing that should the said team fail to meet the requirements before the restart of the season then they will not take part in completing the remaining matches of the season. 

When will the PSL season resume?   

The league and its board of governors held a meeting on Monday, July 27 where it was decided that the season should resume on August 8. 

The campaign will get underway with the two Nedbank Cup semi-finals involving Mamelodi Sundowns, Bloemfontein Celtic, Bidvest Wits and Baroka FC.  

Khoza reiterated in his press conference that Gauteng will stage all PSL and NFD matches. 

According to Khoza, teams will be allowed into the bio-bubble a day before the restart of the season – this means the abovementioned teams will enter the bio-bubble on August 7.  

Safa had proposed August 1 as the restart date but the PSL, in consultation with their sponsors and partners, decided to resume a week later.

This would give Safa enough time to deploy the match officials and deal with other logistics.   

In the revised fixture list, the league confirmed that the final matches of the league will be played on September 5 with the Nedbank Cup pencilled for September 8. 

The relegation/promotion playoffs will get underway on September 6 with the final match of the playoffs scheduled for September 21. 

Could the PSL season be cancelled? 

At this stage, the PSL has no intentions to cancel the season and Khoza emphasised the importance of finishing the campaign. 

Media reports surfaced two weeks that the league was considering cancelling the season but Monday’s press conference has put those rumours to bed. 

Khoza said if there are confirmed positive tests before the restart of the season or while the season is in progress then teams will be allowed to use their MDC teams because the aim is to conclude the season at all costs.  

In mid-Apil, Safa set two conditions that will make it possible for the return of all football activities in South Africa:

1. The government should declare that it is safe to do so – which they since have [subject to extensive testing and screening of players and officials and disinfection of training facilities].

2. That domestic flights are reinstituted – and this has been passed by the government after allowing flights to operate again. 

This means teams from outside Gauteng will not struggle to make their way into the province ahead of the restart of the season.  

Safa has agreed with PSL’s decision to take the matches to Gauteng despite the province recently becoming the epicentre for the coronavirus. 

Safa said in their statement that they didn’t have an input in the selection of Gauteng as the biologically safe environment for the matches. 

What’s worrying though is that three referees tested positive for Covid-19 and are in isolation but Safa is confident the unnamed trio will be ready come August 8.  

What happens if the PSL season can’t be finished?  

The season is definitely going to be finished, and this was the assurance Khoza gave the country in his press briefing. 

Kaizer Chiefs remain top of the log with 48 points from 22 games followed closely by Mamelodi Sundowns in second place. 

The Brazilians have a game in hand and are four points behind Amakhosi. 

What are PSL teams doing during lockdown? 

PSL clubs have been allowed to return to training by the government and the majority of teams have already been training in groups.

Highlands Park are the one team that complained about their state of readiness. Coach Owen Da Gama revealed that his team wasn’t ready as they had only been training in groups of six. 

The PSL instructed all 32 clubs to appoint compliance officers before the players can be allowed to return to their training grounds, and the majority of them have complied except one which Khoza didn’t name. 

Teams in Gauteng will be allowed to use their usually training facilities while arrangements have been made for those that will be travelling into the province for the remainder of the season. 

As things stand, the PSL only allocated ‘new’ home venues for all the 32 teams – a total of 16 stadiums will be used for competitive matches across both PSL and NFD. 

Teams with resources such as Chiefs, Orlando Pirates and Mamelodi Sundowns had to rely on technological means to monitor what their players were doing while at home. 

All the clubs have tested their players, but very few have made the results public – among others are Kaizer Chiefs, Bloemfontein Celtic, Cape Town City, SuperSport United, Mamelodi Sundowns, Stellenbosch FC, Swallows FC, Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila, Ajax Cape Town and TS Galaxy. 

At one stage, there were only 15 confirmed positive from the PSL and NFD clubs but with other clubs only coming out recently, chances are that there are more than what’s been reported but the next few days will give the country clarity on the exact numbers ahead of the return of football.