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Medical experts say football in SA could only resume on level 1 lockdown

Leagues in South Africa have been suspended since 19 March, four days before the nationwide lockdown was announced.

Kaizer Chiefs' Leonardo Castro (right) chases down a  ball during the Absa Premiership match against Cape Town City FC at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg on 12 January 2020. Picture: @KaizerChiefs/Twitter

JOHANNESBURG - The South African Football Association (Safa) said that it had consulted medical experts to submit reports on when it would be safe to resume playing football in South Africa.

Leagues in South Africa have been suspended since 19 March, four days before the nationwide lockdown was announced.

According to the two experts, football can only be played on level 1 but still without spectators and that all clubs must have full-time sports doctors to manage the COVID-19 situation.

Football around the world has been hampered by the coronavirus pandemic with leagues taking different stances on whether their respective domestic seasons should resume or not.

The Premier League is determined to continue with the current campaign with the FA having announced “Project Restart,” which aims to return to action in June.

Leagues in Spain and Germany are hoping to resume their seasons in mid-June and early May respectively.

The Dutch and Belgium Leagues have both been voided while the French prime minister said football would not return in his country until at least September 2020, effectively ending the football season in France.

In a statement released on Thursday, Safa said it would “submit a full report to the world football governing body, Fifa on the impact of COVID-19 on football in our country and when Safa believes it will be safe to resume football again”.

SUMMARY OF WHAT THE TWO MEDICAL EXPERTS SAY:
Playing football requires travelling, including from one province to the other and that cannot be achieved under level 4.

Another issue is the social distancing factor – football is a contact sport where ‘we cannot social distance’.

Conducive playing environment needs:
• To sanitise the venues – both the training and match venues

• To thoroughly screen all the players including the technical and support staff before any games are played.

• For it to be safe, the recommendation is to test everyone involved for COVID-19 rather than just screening.

• The screening should be done on a daily basis because the virus can at times be dormant and not show any symptoms when someone could be carrying the virus. Players are discouraged from using the dressing room and must shower at home.

• Clubs must arrange that players do not use public transport when football resumes.

• The players should not share drinking bottles among others.

• The technical and support staff must always wear masks.

• The kit manager must always wear medical gloves when collecting and distributing the kit.