COVID-19 COSAFA AfriCAN: Burundi’s restart offers hope to COSAFA nations

They may not be part of the COSAFA region, but the return of league football in Burundi on Thursday offers some hope to Southern African nations that their turn might not be too far away.

Burundi will be the first African nation to resume matches in their local league with a catch-up fixture between Musongati and Athlético Olympic that was outstanding from before the pause in the campaign due to general elections in the country that took place on Wednesday.

Burundi was the only African country that played on during the COVID-19 pandemic, but halted their league six weeks ago in the build-up to the elections.

They will now play on, with fans set to have their temperature checked before they are allowed into the stadia, and other sanitising methods put in place.

The next full round of league games will be played on the weekend of May 30/31.

A number of COSAFA nations are also working out a return to play protocol, with Football Association of Malawi (FAM) President Walter Nyamilandu revealing their position after meeting with concerned supporters on Wednesday.

Fans are eager to see football return in the country as soon as possible, but Nyamilandu says the conditions must be right, and the environment safe.

“We would like to applaud the supporters for taking the right approach by contacting us first as the custodians of organised football in the country,” he said.

“They would have resorted to venting out their concerns by demonstrating in the streets. But they realise the need to follow and respect the right channels of presenting concerns in organised football.

“As FAM we would also want football to start. But we will do it in a proper manner that takes into consideration the safety of all of us.”

Nyamilandu added that the association was hopeful of getting matches under way by August, but that they have also planned for a scenario whereby this is not possible.

“We devised two football calendar scenarios and entailed a delayed start up with September as a deadline or forfeiture of the season in the event of the status quo prevailing until end of the year.

“We started the process of achieving option one of calendar resumption last week Thursday, when we met Super League of Malawi, Regional Associations, National Referees Association and National Women’s Football Association.

“We proposed that we should kick off latest in three months’ time. The process will be followed up by a meeting between the FAM Competitions Committee and the Task Force this Saturday.

“Bearing in mind that COVID-19 will persist for a long time, the Committee will need to put in place guidelines and conditions of how football activities can be conducted in the safest manner possible to avoid spread of the coronavirus.

“This proposal will be submitted to Malawi Government through the ministry of Sports for further consultation and consideration. The consultation will also be extended to FIFA and CAF so that we get guidance on our proposals to resume matches within the most practical time frame,” he said.

Meanwhile, supporters in all COSAFA nations are urged to follow the advice of the World Health Organisation (WHO) to combat the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, which include:

Wash your hands frequently: Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water.

Maintain social distancing: Maintain at least 1 metre (3 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.

Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth: Hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses. Once contaminated, hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth. From there, the virus can enter your body and can make you sick.

Practice respiratory hygiene: Make sure you, and the people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately

If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early: Stay home if you feel unwell. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and call in advance. Follow the directions of your local health authority.