The situation in Gauteng and the country at large is life-threatening, and we need to tread carefully on safety and health compliance.
The South African Football Association (Safa) has struck back after facing a barrage of criticism on media platforms for its supposed “obstructionist” stance in the controversial matter of resuming the football season.
In a statement, Safa said it had to deal with a volley of distortions and accusations in the wake of the Premier Soccer League’s efforts to fast-track the kick-off.
Safa’s statement in part reads: “Safa have always advocated for the immediate resumption of football upon full compliance from the National Soccer League. We are looking forward to football resuming in the first week of August.
“We must insist on the health and safety of players as prescribed by Fifa, world football’s governing body.
“The situation in Gauteng and the country at large is life-threatening, and we need to tread carefully on safety and health compliance.”
The attack on Safa was partially motivated by the mention of July 18 as the date for the restart in the mainstream media, although PSL chairman Irvin Khoza said it was never officially announced.
He said the date was mentioned in a letter to Safa.
In their statement, Safa responds: “On Monday (July 13), the Joint Working Group led by the Safa and NSL CEOs met, and after consultations with the Referees Sub-Committee agreed that the start of the league would be August 1.
“This agreement was forwarded to the Safa NEC and the NSL Board of Governors. It was in response to the letter from the national government outlining compliance processes which placed the responsibilities of overseeing the entire process on Safa.”
Safa have explained that preparing match officials for duty could not be done at the drop of a hat. Many match officials hold down day jobs, and many may not be fully fit even though they tried to stay fit during lockdown.
Fitness and health tests have begun under the supervision of Jerome Damon, the chairperson of the Referees Technical Committee.
“The Joint Working Group has been working hard and we hope matches will commence on August 1 as planned.
“We have begun processes to test match officials for Covid-19. Those who test negative proceed with mandatory Fifa fitness tests. This is a requirement from Fifa, who initially suggested three weeks (of preparation) but we compromised on two weeks,” the statement added.
There is also a concern that permanently employed officials will be available full-time for six weeks, which is the period that the PSL hopes to wrap up the remainder of the season. Another concern has been raised in the light of Fifa’s Covid-19 protocols which stipulate that referees must change into fresh kit at half-time.
Acting Safa chief executive Tebogo Motlanthe feels that his organisation will be able to conform to the requirement.
“It’s not a challenge, it’s something that can be addressed,” Motlanthe told Kick-Off magazine.
“For every problem, there is a solution. We will find a solution around it.”
So for now, it seems, it is all systems go.