South African referee Akhona Makalima has a strong message for fans to follow government guidelines to save lives and get football back under way across the COSAFA region.
Makalima, who was the only female referee on the Premier Soccer League panel, is a rising star of African officiating and has also performed on CAF and FIFA platforms.
She received her FIFA badge in 2014, and was recently invited to a Global Sport Mentorship programme in the US.“I want to urge our COSAFA family, during this testing time, to follow authorities restrictions by maintaining social distancing, do not touch your face, nose or eyes.
“Continue to wash your eyes and stay at home, and if you are coughing, you should cover your mouth and nose.
“Let’s do this for ourselves and for our loved ones. We want to see you on the field of play again!”
Makalima admits her first dream was to play for Bafana Bafana, but that was not to be and she instead turned to officiating.
“I played football for most of my youth and I badly wanted to play for Banyana,” she told City Press.
“At the time, the Eastern Cape didn’t even have a competitive team. There was a lack of development structures and I stopped playing soccer in 2011.”
It is a familiar story, though women’s football has made great strides in South Africa in recent years, culminating in the country qualifying for the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France.
Supporters in all COSAFA nations are desperate for football to return, and 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.