Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Thrills on the field of play … Spills of Covid-19 on the stands

Sport may have returned after a very long absence, but the lessons from the suspension of sport due to Covid-19 have seemingly not been learnt.

If anything, the two Orange FA Cup semifinal matches played over the weekend at the Royal Area Stadium have shown that no one, from Botswana Football Association (BFA) to the sponsors crew to the supporters is ready to adhere to set protocols.

The level of violations, for a lack of better word, was exasperating. No social distancing, no wearing of masks, no marshals or SHE officers to enforce regulations and no enforcement of proof of vaccination for those entering the stadium as had been promised.

All this, contrary to what the BFA had said prior to the games. Before stepping into the field, BFA competitions manager, Setete Phuthego had vowed that Covid-19 protocols will be followed at all cost.

Surprisingly, when reached for comment, the BFA Competitions Manager understated the situation, limiting it to noticing ‘a few exceptions here and there during the games where people were not wearing their mask and some not wearing them properly.’ He further noted that ‘social distancing was a challenge as many were gathered in groups.’

“With the observations we have made as BFA, we intend to ensure that we have more marshals in the stadium as we noticed that security guards alone could not manage the job of ensuring that people follow the covid-19 protocols,” he said.

Nonetheless, Phuthego said the association will do better going into the semi- finals and finals of the Orange FA cup to ensure the nation is safe during the games.

While the Botswana National Sporting Commission (BNSC) Chief Executive Office (CEO) Tuelo Serufho said he will be awaiting a full report from the BFA on what transpired, he has expressed disgust at the reported flagrant disregard of protocols during weekend’s football games.

“At the moment I cannot comment on the issues of Covid-19 protocols as we are waiting a report regarding the games from BFA. Usually, every Tuesday we access all sporting activities than we can take action from there,” he said.

The BNSC CEO however said once they have received report from the BFA, they will engage with them as well as other National Sports Association (NSAs) to discuss how things should happen going forward.

Interestingly, even the BNSC did not have its own observers at the games to see if regulations were being followed. Commenting on the matter, the BNSC CEO said they usually run checks during games, which is an act that is carried out through out all sporting codes. 

“From my knowledge as of now, non of our staff carried out checks during the FA games as we were away on a retreat. This does however not absolve us of any blame,” Serufho said. 

The BFA CEO said if it is determined during engagements with BFA that indeed protocols were not observed, the BNSC will be forced to act. He said the same will be done to any NSA which chooses to overlook covid-19 protocols.

“We work together with Botswana Police, The Ministry of Health and also in the instance of BFA, with Lone Bagwasi who is the medical manager. Together with all this people, we ensure that protocols are followed as we are still on the evaluation stage; being the first phase which allows associations to have 20% of their official capacity,’ Serufho noted.

On what happens next, the BNSC CEO said any more violations during games will determine the next step the commission will take or if they forfeit as part of wrong behaviour portrayed during games.

“If the NSAs do not enforce regulations as agreed to in the return to play guidelines, we may be forced to review our guidelines to make them stricter or even suspend the violating sporting code from continuing to play. And this will hurt the codes themselves,” he concluded.

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