April 22, 2021

We will halt football if health protocols are not adhered to – warns Minister Mthethwa

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After almost five months of inactivity, football action returns in South Africa on Saturday under strict health and safety measures

Sports Minister Nathi Mthethwa has stressed that all football restart plans by the Premier Soccer League (PSL) and Safa should be stringently followed, otherwise the government will not hesitate to temporarily withdraw the rights for the resumption of football.

After almost five months of inactivity, the domestic season continues with Saturday’s Nedbank Cup semi-final matches featuring Bloemfontein Celtic and Baroka FC, before Mamelodi Sundowns and Bidvest Wits clash.

Making the return of football interesting is that the PSL campaign will restart on August 11 with a big fixture between Mamelodi Sundowns and Orlando Pirates, while leaders Kaizer Chiefs take on Bidvest Wits the following day.

But amid the excitement, the government says it would suspend football again if the Johannesburg biologically safe environment assurances made by football authorities are broken.

“It, therefore, means that those plans that they [Safa and PSL] have submitted should be adhered to‚ it’s not a fait accompli that people will just get on the field and play‚” said Mthethwa as per Sowetan Live.

“They will play based on the plans which were submitted to the department and we reserve the right to halt any activity if we feel and think that those protocols and plans are not adhered to.

“We are pleased that the department of health has concurred with the proposal for football to return to completing the season behind closed doors in a biologically safe environment‚ which is a closed environment of the procured hotels‚ the transport hubs‚ training grounds and stadiums.

“This is subject to the plans they have submitted and all other protocols as outlined in the regulations and directions published by the department.”

Besides health procedures for accommodation, transport, training ground and stadiums, constant testing for the coronavirus forms part of the commitments made to the government by football authorities.

There will be a round of testing 48 hours before teams assemble in the Johannesburg bio-bubble this week, while other tests will continue regularly as the season plays on.

PSL’s compliance officer Michael Murphy is working together with his Safa counterparts Dr Thulani Ngwenya and Mlungisi Ncame to ensure a health hazard-free football environment.