Safa boss makes it clear that, as far as the decision to suspend soccer in the country, the Association has the final say
The South African Football Association – not the Premier Soccer League nor even the office of the minister of sports, arts, culture and recreation – runs all things football in the country!
This much is evident after Safa president Danny Jordaan said the association’s decision to suspend all football activities at least until April 4 is “final”, as they aim to reduce the spread of the pandemic coronavirus that has the world on its knees.
On Sunday, the President of the Republic Cyril Ramaphosa declared that Covid-19, which has infected over 200 000 people around the world, a national disaster. Therefore, he urged people to refrain from gathering where there’s at least 100 people or above.
Reduce the spread
The PSL together with Safa adhered to the message, immediately suspending all football activities this week and on the weekend. The two houses were joining leagues around the world which have suspended a number of professional sport codes to reduce the spread of Covid-19.
But in a twist of things, following a meeting with the Safa president Jordaan and PSL chairman Irvin Khoza on Tuesday morning, minister Nathi Mthethwa unceremoniously announced that PSL matches will continue and be played behind closed doors.
“It’s not two weeks or a week (that we will decide whether to play football behind closed doors or not) but it’s now. We’ve said that we need them, the chairman and others, to raise their voice in the (prevention or reduction) of this pandemic,” Mthethwa said early this week.
“So therefore, they’ll continue with their matches and they’ll be without the spectators until the end of the season. As they do that, they’ll be spreading the message of fighting against this pandemic. There’s no confusion about that.”
But clearly there was a lot of confusion.
On hearing of the response of the minister, Safa urgently called a press conference at their headquarters in Nasrec yesterday, where they put their head on the block and reiterated, they have suspended all football programmes at least until early April.
According to the Safa head of medical Dr. Thulani Ngwenya even the suggestion of playing behind closed doors is not an option, considering there’ll be more than 100 people at the venue – including players, technical team, broadcasters, officials – while football remains a contact sport.
“The first world countries like Italy, Spain and Switzerland have tried to play football behind closed but we’ve had a situation where it hasn’t materialised or given good results,” said Ngwenya, who’s also the Bafana Bafana team doctor.
“We’ve had a situation where some players had to be quarantined for 14 days after playing behind closed doors. So, we don’t really advocate for it to continue because of those reasons and many others.”
Jordaan added: “I am not going to speak on behalf of the minister, so I cannot say whether he was ill-informed or not. But I can tell you we are working with the minister and we’ll continue to do so. But as far as the decision (to suspend matches) it is final.”
The PSL is expected to hold a Board of Governors (BoG) meeting today, where they’ll “consider all options there may be in this difficult time so as to best protect the rights, interests, and health of professional football, its clubs, players, commercial partners, supporters and of course South Africans generally”.
But according to Jordaan the outcomes of that meeting will do little to change their decision – of suspending the league. After all, it’s only the mother body (Safa) that has all the power to make a decision on whether the league continues or not.
“On the 16th of March as I indicated, together with the Safa (acting) CEO (Gay Mokoena), that the letter (of the suspension of matches) was sent (to the PSL). So, we cannot stop them from debating whatever it is they want to debate,” Jordaan said.
“The position is clear and we’ve stated the position. We’ll now write to Fifa and Caf of the position that South African football has taken in relation to making the people of our country safe and taking up the players’ interest.”
Jordaan added: “You must go to the Fifa sanctions, it says that Safa is the governing body of football in the country. It also says the league is the internal subordinate body of Safa. You go to the Caf and Safa constitutions, they say the same.”