The Premier Soccer League will be using this weekend’s MTN-8 final as a pilot project to test whether football fans can gradually return to stadiums after a ban of almost two years due to the coronavirus pandemic.
A breakthrough was made earlier this month when two thousand fans were allowed to attend the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifier between Bafana Bafana and Ethiopia at the FNB Stadium.
This was also a pilot project after government eased the COVID-19 regulations to allow at least two thousand fans to attend any outdoor events.
Fans will be on the stands at the Moses Mabhida Stadium on Saturday evening when Cape Town City host Mamelodi Sundowns in the final of this season’s MTN8 Cup at the iconic Moses Mabhida Stadium.
Fans were banished from attending live soccer matches at stadiums since March 2019, to try and combat the spread of the coronavirus.
But there is hope that fans will slowly return to venues starting from this weekend.
The PSL’s head of risk management Mlungisi Ngcami says, “Following the publishing of the ministerial directives the PSL then submitted an application to government to approve that we host the final as a test event for the return of spectators to our matches. Government approved our application and confirmed that they are satisfied that having looked at all the documentation we submitted we are fully compliant and we meet the requirements hence are able to then organise and stage the final on Saturday.”
Strict COVID-19 regulations will be implemented to ensure that the event adheres to government regulations.
Ngcami says officials from the department of health will be at the stadium to conduct the verification of vaccination certificates.
“Each spectator is expected to provide a ticket, proof of vaccination, and an ID to be allowed entry into the stadium. They must also put on a mask. Without a mask entry will not be allowed, so no mask no entry.”
The host team Cape Town City will go into the match as underdogs against overwhelming favourites Mamelodi Sundowns.
But City’s assistant coach Diogo Peral says the club cannot be taken lightly as they will be featuring in their fourth cup final in six years.
The club has already tasted victory in the same competition in the 2018/2019 season.
Peral admits that they will be facing an extremely good side which has proved to be strong on both attack and defence.
“We know we need to be on top of our game to come up against a team like Sundowns, you know, considering what they have done this season. They are a team who have very few weak points. Offensively they are good, defensively they are good. They don’t concede goals, they’ve got individuals who can do damage so we know we need to be on top of our game but having said that, you know Cape Town City maybe in a forty men squad we don’t compete but if you take the twenty men squad that’s chosen for this final then I think we’ve got individuals who can compete, we can go toe to toe with them.”
Sundowns are dominating the local football front, but have only won the top eight competition twice in the club’s history. The last time Sundowns won this tournament was back in 2007 when it was still known as the SAA Supa 8.
Assistant coach Rhulani Mokwena admits that this is a trophy that has eluded Sundowns for many seasons, but says the moment has arrived for the current players to re-write the history books.
“You can’t win them all but God has given us an opportunity to try again and for us to be able to pitch with our A-game and arrive in the right sense of space to play as we always say match and not to play the occasion and that for us is what inspires us. We are motivated by the goals, the ambitions of the club and not necessarily by the negativity of being inspired by the fact that we have not won this trophy before.”
The final kick-off is at six o’clock in the evening, with the winners to pocket a whopping 8-million rand first prize.