Football is expected to resume in August once government gives a nod to Football Association of Malawi (FAM) joint task force’s proposal, but with the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) cases on the rise, one thing that is certain is that things will never be the same again both on the pitch and the terraces.
The FAM joint committee task force has proposed a road map to the return of football with clearly stated health and social distancing guidelines from the training sessions to the match-day.
Topping the proposals is monthly testing of all players so that only those that test negative for Covid-19 can play. During training, clubs also have to provide water and soap for washing hands.
On the match-day, more strict health protocols will also be observed.
Dressing rooms will have to be disinfected and no contact between players will be allowed.
On the pitch, group photos will be restricted and no handshakes with the referees before, during and after the game.
Before and during the games, match balls will be disinfected regularly and ball boys will only place match balls at designated places.
During the match, spitting is prohibited and there will be no celebrations in groups and touching hands with teammates.
On the technical bench, players will have to wear masks and sit at a least one metre apart. Only coaches will be allowed to remove the masks in order to give instructions to the players.
Corner flags, balls, cones, goalposts and even playing surfaces, dressing rooms will be disinfected after each match.
But the most controversial social distancing measure in the proposal is on reduction of capacity by half in order to impose social distancing at the terraces.
Sulom president Tiya Somba-Banda said if the precautionary measures can be religiously practised, there won’t be healthy risks for both players and spectators.
“Whether we like it or not Covid-19 is here to stay. We just have to find ways of continuing playing football as long as it is in the safety manner,” he said.
The FAM tasks force proposal acknowledges the implications of resuming football amid coronavirus.
“FAM understands the urgency of restarting the game in the country, but is very mindful of the wellbeing and lives of all our stakeholders. FAM will ensure that the return of any football activity is conducted in a safe environment that does not pose any risk of getting our beloved stakeholders infected by Covid-19.
“The pandemic is real and it is here to stay and we must continue being precautious in our line of business. It will be the responsibility of all of us to ensure that precautionary measures for the prevention of the spread of pandemic are being followed,” the task force’s proposal reads in part.