BFA welcomes return of football
Following the recent Government Gazette Extraordinary, dated 7th September 2021, competitive football in Botswana has been allowed to resume, and the Botswana Football Association ( BFA) has welcomed the decision with open arms.
Local sporting activities were suspended more than a year ago due to the COVID- 19 pandemic. When the ban was lifted on 11th June 2021, Botswana Football Association rolled out its 3- Phased Return to Play plan, that was structured to prioritise Botswana Football League ( BFL) teams, especially the Premier league teams to return to training. This was under Phase 1 and later to be taken on competitive sport as part of phase 2 and 3. Despite the slow start of Phase 1, by 19th July 2021, all Premier League teams had fulfilled the return to training compliance requirements and training was in full swing by the end of July and before yet another decision was taken to suspend all sporting activities on August 16th.
“Notwithstanding, the BFA did not despair as there had been continuous engagement with key stakeholders primarily the Botswana National Sports Commission ( BNSC) and Ministry of Youth, Sport, and Culture Development( MYSC) for a long- term commitment to enable continuation of football activities in a safer environment that could later enable fans to be allowed in stadiums under controlled measures”, a statement from BFA reads.
During the recent consultations, the BFA Medical Committee led by Dr. Lone Bogwasi had cited that BFA
Return To Play guidelines had been developed to minimise the spread of the virus while playing such contact sport like football. And that through continuous engagement, surveillance, and spot checks to monitor compliance, the spread of the virus among players and officials could be controlled. Dr. Bogwasi had submitted that, “In the time that football was allowed almost all clubs ( 87.5percent) had a low risk of infection upon assessment. Only 2 clubs ( 13percent) scored a moderate risk with amendments to be made. No club scored high risk. From the cohort of Premier League players, 79 players were affected by COVID- 19 since the pandemic started and we are confident that continuous monitoring and surveillance will be key in ensuring lowered risk of exposure when playing football.” Dr. Bogwasi had further underscored that there had been considerable compliance by the teams and the BFA had been confident that football can be played if teams and all stakeholders uphold the compliance guidelines provided. BFA President, Maclean Letswhiti, who has recently come under fire from all corners of the football spectrum with many accusing him of failing to return football to the pitch, when quizzed about Government’s recent decision he said: “Of course we are happy, but we must never lose sight of our set goals. The commitment we have made to football remains and we will continue to shape, professionalize, and commercialize local football. We can only reach such goals when we work together to serve for the love of the game. Behaviour change among all stakeholders is key for us to win the fight against this monster called Covid- 19, and later see football fans in stadiums; even if it is under a controlled environment. For as long as we continue to observe the rules and regulations as set by the Government of Botswana and all key football stakeholders like BNSC, CAF and FIFA, football will continue to be played and the safety and security of all will be upheld in line with the set safe sport guidelines.” For her part, the BFA Chief Executive Officer, Goabaone Taylor said the Federation is happy with Government’s decision to allow for the safe return of competitive sport notably football. “Our greatest belief has always been that the football value chain is a significant contributor to Botswana’s economy and that Football as a game loved by all, can continue to be played in a safe environment. There have been conversations to suggest that taking part in physical activity has a positive impact on mental wellbeing and we stress that continuity of football, even when in a pandemic, can cannot be overlooked. We are extremely happy to see football return because it keeps those passionate about it positively engaged and involved,” said Taylor.