‘Players’ health is our top priority’. . . Caf warns of premature resumption of leagues

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Nigel Matongorere

SPORTS EDITOR

matongoreren@dailynews.co.zw

 

©️  THE Confederation of African Football (Caf) insists the health of players and officials is top priority as the continent is trying to figure out how to restart the game during this coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak.

At the moment, the novel virus has killed over 2 000 and infected a little over 60 000 on the continent since it was first reported in Wuhan, China last year.

Here in Zimbabwe, the country has recorded four deaths from the confirmed 36 cases.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) is predicting that the deadly disease could kill an estimated 190 000 and infect close to 5,5 million on the continent in the coming weeks.

The 2020 Zimbabwe domestic season should have commenced in March but had to be suspended indefinitely after the government imposed a nationwide lockdown.

That lockdown has already been extended on two occasions and there is a huge possibility when it comes to an end this Sunday, the government might prolong the period further.

Speaking with German broadcaster Deutsche Welle following WHO’s recent statement, Caf president Ahmad said they will not compromise the health of players.

“The priority is health. If this crisis continues, it is like any phenomenon of human life. We cannot send our young people to the slaughterhouse,” Ahmad said.

“It is up to us to see and discuss with our business partners, discuss with all those who cooperate with us in the organisation of these competitions and we will see then. The urgency defines the priorities.”

The Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) recently announced that pending the government’s approval, it was looking at August-September as a possible start date for the 2020 season.

Ahmad also pointed out the need to respect the protocols that have been put in place by the governments on the continent before thinking of resuming football.

“We have to wait. As president of Caf, I personally invite everyone to be very careful and wait for the situation to normalise,” he said.

“At that time, we can eventually resume competitions. I do not want football to be a source of destabilisation of the barrier measures taken by the various governments to face this pandemic.

“This general lack of visibility does not allow us to anticipate and plan our activities. At present, we are working closely with WHO, as well as with the health authorities of each country, and especially the African Union.

“The outcome of these steps will allow us to see more clearly the situation of football in Africa.” Caf recently wrote to all its member associations including Zifa seeking clarity on the status of their respective leagues’ status.

The Cairo-based organisation also wanted to hear the recommendations each association is looking at in trying to resume football activities.

“For the past two weeks, our administration has contacted the various national federations that are members of Caf so that we can inquire about the realities on the sport, so that we can plan the outcome of the various continental competitions,” Ahmad said.

In Europe, a number of leagues are on the verge of returning during this coronavirus pandemic with strict health protocols having been put in place.

In England, Germany, Spain and Italy players are training in small groups of three to five on separate pitches while wearing face masks.

The players and officials are also being tested regularly to check whether they have contracted the virus or not.

When the games finally resume, they will be played behind closed doors with the match balls being sterilised to prevent infection.

 

 

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