COVID-19 COSAFA AfriCAN: Tanzania restart league but Botswana call time on theirs

As we end our COVID-19 COSAFA AfriCAN campaign on Monday, one African league re-started their season this past weekend and another called time on theirs as the uncertainty around the pandemic continues.

In conjunction with the World Health Organization (WHO) and FIFA, COSAFA has been supplying fans with information around preventative measures and messages of support from players, coaches and referees since March 25.

But as local governments have come to grips with the pandemic, and more information is readily available to the public, we will shift focus back to football in the coming months as we hope to see more domestic action and, in the not too distant future, international matches return.

Tanzania, so often a guest nation at COSAFA tournaments in the recent past, fired up their league again this weekend for the first time since mid-March.

Simba SC were held to a 1-1 draw by Ruvu Shooting, but look to have already sewn up the championship with a 15-point lead and nine rounds to play.

But that welcome return was in contrast to the decision of the Botswana Football Association (BFA) to end their 2019/20 with immediate effect, citing a lack of testing capacity to safely return to play as per FIFA guidelines.

“The BFA NEC has taken the following resolution unanimously that the 2019/2020 Football season is concluded with the league tables as there are,” a statement said. “The effect is that the team at the summit is crowned champions and the teams at the bottom of the table will relegate.”

The decision was taken with 10 rounds still left to play in the season, and sees Jwaneng Galaxy declared champions for the first time after some neat misses.

Galaxy, who had been runners-up in the last three Botswana Premier League seasons, were one point ahead of Opara United and defending champions Township Rollers.

At the other end of the table, TAFIC, Molepolole City Stars and Miscellaneous were relegated to the First Division league as the bottom three in the league while Masitaoka, leading First Division South, and First Division North leader Sua Flamingo are promoted.

The BFA said a committee would be formed to work out the promotion playoff between Mogoditshane Fighters and Nico United for the other spot in the Premier League.

Botswana are the third COSAFA nation to call off their season after Mauritius and Angola, while the likes of South Africa, Zambia and Eswatini are still hoping to re-start theirs.

As with the case of Botswana, one of the major hindrances could be the ability to ensure the safety of all stakeholders in terms or regular testing for players, coaching staff and associated individuals, which is not readily available in some countries.

As many experts have said, the COVID-19 pandemic will not be going away anytime soon, so we have to adapt and learn to live with the potential spread of the disease.

Supporters in all COSAFA nations are therefore urged to follow the advice of 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.