It is not just players and coaches that are lending their voice to the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, some of COSAFA’s top match officials are getting involved too.
Angolan match official Helder Martins is one of the best referees in Africa and a veteran of over 10 years of blowing the whistle at COSAFA tournaments.
He officiated at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, and the 2018/19 CAF Champions League semifinal between Wydad Casablanca and Mamelodi Sundowns, as well as many Nations Cup and World Cup qualifiers.
Like players, he is also on the sidelines with no football action, and urges fans to play their part to stop the spread of the virus so the games can resume in the not too distant future.
“I am here to ask you, due to the coronavirus, please protect yourself and your family,” Martins said.
“Pay attention and follow all the safety measures to avoid the deadly virus. Stay at home and be safe!”
Martins is the perfect example of a referee who has been groomed through COSAFA tournaments and is now at the top of his craft.
“I was given the 2009 COSAFA Cup final, which was quite a surprise as I was a young referee, but it was a great experience for me,” Martins said.
“No-one knew me, I was very young at that time. I think people were a little bit scared about how I would perform. Me also, I was very, very scared, it was a big challenge. But it went well – and it remains probably my best memory as a referee.
“The following year there was the African Under-17 Championships and I did the final of that as well. After that I was promoted for the Under-17 World Cup in Mexico, two matches. I have moved up from there.”
Fans should adhere to the guidelines laid out by the World Health Organisation in the bid to combat the coronavirus outbreak, 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.