Jonty Mark

By Jonty Mark

Football Editor


SA football set for return, come hell or high water

Given the slightly absurd reluctance of the Premier Soccer League to make any sort of official statement, up to now, on a return to play in the 2019/20 season, one sincerely hopes chairman Irvin Khoza's press conference on Monday addresses this, and isn't to announce a new PSL face-mask sponsor, even if in these crazy economic times we need all the sponsors we can get.


This isn't exactly a completely benign joke, as Khoza is known for frustrating journalists by calling urgent press conferences that turn out to be about vague irrelevances that scream the word “PRESS RELEASE!” However, it does seem likely that there will be substance to the PSL chairman's words on Monday, with the league apparently deciding on a date to resume the Nedbank Cup, Absa Premiership and GladAfrica Championship. The basic conclusion the league look to have reached, and to be fair they have been intent on finishing this campaign no matter what since lockdown started in mid-March, is that even…

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This isn’t exactly a completely benign joke, as Khoza is known for frustrating journalists by calling urgent press conferences that turn out to be about vague irrelevances that scream the word “PRESS RELEASE!”

However, it does seem likely that there will be substance to the PSL chairman’s words on Monday, with the league apparently deciding on a date to resume the Nedbank Cup, Absa Premiership and GladAfrica Championship.

The basic conclusion the league look to have reached, and to be fair they have been intent on finishing this campaign no matter what since lockdown started in mid-March, is that even if COVID-19 infections are on the rise, football needs to get going or the economic impact could destroy football people’s livelihoods in an equal, if not more aggressive fashion than any pandemic.

And so here we are, where the league intend to use COVID-19 hotspot Gauteng as a centre in which all of the remaining games will be played. There are enough venues in Gauteng, after all, and I guess if you can create a COVID-19-free “bubble”, it doesn’t matter if it is in the most infectious part of the country or the least infectious.

There is, of course, the possibility that the league could be made to look incredibly reckless, if there is a severe outbreak of the coronavirus within this “bubble”, but leagues like the Bundesliga, LaLiga, the English Premier League and Serie A have shown that it is possible to carry on with the season, as yet without hazardous repercussions.

One protocol the league don’t appear to be following in relation to other countries is in allowing players enough time to get match-fit for a season restart. The EPL, for example allowed a month from the start of non-contact training while here, having only just allowed teams to return to non-contact training, the league want to be up and running in the next week or two.

This does surely increase the risk of injuries, but again with economic factors a serious concern, this appears to be a risk most of the 32 clubs the PSL structures are prepared to take, even if I believe concerns were voiced at Wednesday’s PSL Board of Governors meeting.

All of which leaves us getting ready for South Africa’s own version of football behind-closed-doors, with regular player testing and sanitisation the keywords, while Kaizer Chiefs will actually have to win the league by rights, and it will all kick off somewhere between July 18 and 22 with the Nedbank Cup semifinals.

This is, of course, all pending approval from the South African Football Association and the government, but the fact that Khoza has called an urgent press conference for Monday does give me some confidence that such approval may already be assured. Unless the PSL chairman is just announcing a new range of socks.

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