South Africans are still waiting for the return of professional football in the country. Early this week, Sports Minister Nathi Mthethwa gave football authorities the green light to resume training.
The National Soccer League is looking for a suitable area, preferably a warmer place that isn’t a COVID-19 hotspot, where the remaining matches of the season will be played.
In the video below, Mthethwa briefs the media on the resumption of sports:
All 32 teams and officials will be expected to be in one area for the duration of all the remaining matches.
The challenge that the football authorities might be faced with is that match officials are not employed by the football governing body, SAFA or the Premier Soccer League (PSL). Most of them have jobs where they are employed full time. Being away from their work for over a month might be a huge challenge.
Referee Victor Hlungwani has been a professional referee since 2001. He has been the middleman in four finals in the domestic competition. At the end of the 2011/2012 season he was named the Referee of the Season in South Africa.
The 44-year-old, who holds a teaching qualification, works for Rand Water in the Vaal region.
Hlungwani is eager to see the return of football matches in the country.
“Definitely the league needs all those people to complete the season because it’s a critical stage of the season where you need quality refereeing. The sooner all safety protocols are observed and adhered to, we come back. Let the winner win on the field not on some coronavirus meeting. Football is won on the field, so I’ll be very happy to see football returning so that we finish. We are in a tight situation because refereeing is not a fulltime job. It’s going to be difficult but we made our input to the referee’s department that maybe they can divide us. Basically it’s a 50/50 situation whereby one individual has to negotiate with his employer,” explains Hlungwani.
“Teams like Kaizer Chiefs, Sundowns, Celtic, Orlando Pirates, etc., the ones with a huge following, the players are going to suffer the most because they won’t have that 12th man. So, for those teams that don’t have huge supporters, it’s an advantage because now both teams won’t have supporters. It will be up to the players to show their passion for the game.” Says Phumudzo Manenzhe who is a football analyst for SABC Sports.
The North West province, Free State, Mpumalanga and Limpopo are the front runners to host the remaining matches of the season.
The absence of football action in the country has affected a lot of people. Unlike others, some football security personnel who have been out of jobs for at least three months now, got some relief in a form of food parcels. The recipients of the food parcels are over the moon.
In the video below, football fans express their views: