Covid-19 divides football

SHARE   |   Thursday, 11 June 2020   |   By Joseph Kgamanyane
Masitaoka Football Club players Masitaoka Football Club players

The request as to what should be done to determine the fate of the suspended football season has divided the local football fraternity with clubs expressing differing suggestions.  

The Botswana Football Association (BFA) this week wrote to clubs requesting their input on how to bring all pending leagues to their conclusion. All football related activities were suspended in March this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. At the time, the BTC Premier League was left with 10 weeks to come to a conclusion, the Orange FA Cup was at the quarter final stage whereas the Debswana National First Division League was left with only four games to be played.

The BFA has since tabled three options for the clubs to choose from to decide as to how the season can be concluded. The clubs had to vote if they want to extend the league period and complete the remaining fixtures, or for the current season to be declared complete with the effect that the team at the summit will be crowded champions and the bottom will relegate. The third option is to declare the season null and void, with no champions and no relegation.

"The BFA medical committee has been asked to furnish a report on the suitability of the resumption of the football season. A decision on how to bring all leagues to their conclusion has to be taken. To this end, we request your input on this matter," the association said in a letter addressed to the clubs.

Debswana First Division South log leaders, Masitaoka Football Club suggest that the current season should be declared complete. This mean that the Molepolole lads will be crowned champions and promoted to premier league. “We are already closer to the finishing line because we have played almost 80 percent of the league,” the club’s chairperson, Tumelo Ntlhayakgosi argued noting that declaring the season null and void will be a drawback.

In an interview with The Patriot Sport, Ntlhayakgosi said it will be a big loss to take the third route arguing that sponsors have already invested a lot of money into a season that was about to be completed already. Going with the second option Ntlhayakgosi said the only match that can be played is the one for play-offs to select the third team to also be promoted to premier league. He suggest that instead of playing home and away, only one deciding match can be played for the play-offs with spectators not allowed to attend the game.

“Because of COVID-19 we are not running under normal circumstances so we must be willing to compromise and embrace the change the pandemic has brought to us,” Ntlhayakgosi encouraged.

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In his view the challenge of choosing to complete the remaining fixtures will be the costs that will come with adhering to health practices recommended by the medical committee. The Chairman argues it will be costly and most likely impossible for the already financially struggling teams to meet the health requirements. He added that the issue of spectators not allowed to attend the game will also work to their disadvantage because the money from gate takings is of great help to most of the clubs.

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For their part, northern side, Eleven Angels FC differed with Masitaoka suggesting that the league period should be extended so that the remaining fixtures can be completed. The club which is standing on the third position in the Debswana First Division Northern log argues that the second option will not be favourable and fair to them because they still stand a good chance to also be crowned champions or at least qualify for the play-offs. `By week 18 the club was only five points away from both Nico United and Sua Flamingoes which are respectively in position one and two. The club’s Chairman/Coach, Seemo Mpatane believes that BFA should wait and observe the covid-19 situation atleast for the next coming two months to see if the situation would not have been improved by then.

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“If we cannot complete the league let it be declared null and void because it will not be fair to relegate another team which stood the chance to survive relegation in the games remaining,” argued Mpatane

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Meanwhile Sport Analyst, Jimmy George has also concurred that the BFA should not rush to make a move on the matter advising the association to rather continue with their wait and see approach. George also believe that the league should be completed not supporting  the suggestion to declare it null and void nor does he support the idea that those leading the log should be declared champions. The Sport Analyst suggest that the last remaining games can even be played around September stressing that the health and safety of players should take precedence. “We should not be in a hurry to resume competitions because BFA has previously indicated that they are in a process to start a new season around January so this means that we still have time to wait and see what other countries are doing,” George stressed.

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