The squabbles and irregularities surrounding the restart of football in the country have been so loud that declaring the professional domestic season null-and-void couldn’t make more sense at the moment.
After the coronavirus pandemic brought a halt to football four months ago, expectations were high that the South African Football Association (Safa) and its special member the Premiership Soccer League (PSL) would smoke the peace pipe – after years of being at each other’s throats – and come to an agreement about the resumption of football.
For Pete’s sake, even the Minister of Sport Nathi Mthethwa advised them to. But it’s been heart-wrenching how the rage of words and flexing of powers between the two organisations yet again escalated.
A fortnight ago, the PSL felt that they had ticked all the right boxes pertaining to the safety and health protocols required to resume the season as they requested the readiness of match officials for the weekend of July 18 from Safa.
But the mother body, in its own right, advised the league that officials will need at least three weeks to sharpen their match fitness and ensure that they go through the mandatory Covid-19 testing protocols before assembling in the agreed ‘bio bubble’ in Gauteng.
So August 1 was the only suitable time for football to resume, the mother body declared. This clash in dates and readiness followed after the two organisations appointed their own compliance officers – Dr Thulani Ngwenya representing Safa, while Michael Murphy focused on all things PSL.
Murphy began his compliance duties early last month, ensuring that the first round of testing was done by the clubs before players returned to training.
But there was no consensus between him and the public as ‘some’ clubs took it upon themselves to unfold latest developments in camp.
Given that no clubs were forced to divulge the latest developments regarding test results and preparations for resumptions, others found it standard to hide positive cases, citing confidentiality of personnel.
Mamelodi Sundowns only reported this week that they had five players who had tested positive for Covid-19 but who have since recovered after 14 days of self-isolation.
If they could keep that quiet for two weeks, what guarantees are there that other clubs are not sitting with positive cases, considering the last round of testing is 48 hours before they assemble in the bio-bubble?
Considering the PSL were ought to pay the last monthly grants of the season by June 30, clubs are on the verge of having to fork out monies from their own pockets for the standard and external expenses – in the form of the bio bubble and testing procedures. A huge ask for most clubs.
Early last week, PSL chairman Irvin Khoza said they would need at least six weeks to complete the season, resuming matches in the Absa Premiership, GladAfrica Championship, Nedbank Cup semi-finals and final and promotion and relegation play-offs.
Sure, Fifa may have also allowed the season to be concluded beyond August 31 but the turmoil regarding the resumption has been alarming so far. And now may be the time to pull the plug!
At least, that could be a considerable decision to come from today’s board of governors meeting.