Botswana Football Association (BFA) has released its long-awaited guidelines for teams regarding return to play. The guidelines, which were released on Friday afternoon have already elicited conflicting opinions from the local football fraternity.
Under the guidelines, teams will not be expected to play any games for at least 3 weeks, after which they would be allowed to play small sided games and friendly games. The first phase, which will span 3 – 4 days will be dedicated to medical and athletic tests, with only light training being recommended. Then will follow small groups conducting basic drills. In this period however, players will be expected to observe a minimum of 2 meters social distance between them.
As was expected, the regulations recommend that there be no spectators or children to accompany the players and also prohibits handshakes or hugs to celebrate goals. All teams returning to play should also ‘designate or recruit within each team a person – Safety and Health (SHE) officer in charge of coordinating all actions related to the pandemic. They will also be expected to have in place ‘an infection control training program, as stated in the return to play guidelines from the BFA medical committee.’
“A great challenge awaits also the professional teams as at the moment no competitions are allowed. Friendly games without zonal crossing can be played after the players have reached a sufficient performance level,” the regulations read.
Other recommendations in the guidelines include ‘screening of players before training, following of Covid-19 prevention guidelines by all, physical distancing before and after the training as well as equipment disinfection.’
For players returning to play, the guidelines recommend that they should ‘receive their exercises before training, either via Whatsapp or any communication platform.’ Players will be expected to arrive at the training centre already in uniform and wearing masks until they enter the pitch.’
After this first recovery phase, the teams should gradually lift the protective measures to return to normal collective training conditions, keeping the safety precaution put in place by the club/team.
Speaking in an interview, BFA spokesperson Tumo Mpatane said the aim of the guidelines is to ensure ‘an easy but safe return to play.’
“These guidelines were created by the BFA Task Force for bounce back to play along with the BFA medical committee,” Mpatane explained.
He went on to add that the guidelines were also done in conjunction with both the Confederation of African Football (CAF) and FIFA.
Mpatane said as the guardians of football, BFA has a responsibility to ensure the safety of players. He said should football do well in managing the initial phase of the return to play program, it will then open a pathway for the return of competitive football.
“If we successfully make it pat this phase, the initial plan will be for the return of the promotional playoffs and the cup competitions. If we do well, then we will start the return of league season,” he added.
The BFA PRO said with international football returning, the association is hopeful that a return to play will allow the FA to finally bring the national teams into camp.
Meanwhile the guidelines are said to be a short-term solution which followed the lifting of sports activities by the government.
According to a source, the lifting of restrictions came at a time when the BFA was still busy making a holistic bounce back program, which is being done with the help of UEFA.
When the UEFA / BFA bounce back program is finished, it is expected to deal with all aspects of football, including administration, governance and marketing.