Updated COSAFA leagues status report amid coronavirus pandemic

Football leagues around the world are still contemplating how to finish their seasons, while others have already called time on the 2019/20 campaign.

Here is an updated round-up of the situation in each of the COSAFA member associations as football waits patiently for a return when it is safe to do so.

The 2019/20 Girabola has been cancelled, but the Angola government has announced that clubs may resume contact training from June 27, which suggests the new 2020/21 campaign could get under way in its traditional August slot. Whether fans are allowed to attend will be determined later on.

Botswana has relaxed some of its lockdown restrictions, but sports remains off the cards for now. There are hopes training and possibly matches could resume in July. Other, non-contact sports may resume matches without spectators from June 1.

There is a lot of uncertainty around the championship, with the country only recording its first case on April 30, after many others in the region. The hope is to finish the season, but this will depend on when restrictions in the country are lifted. So far there have been 106 cases and two deaths.

Eswatini still aims to push through the completion of their 2019/20 season, though clubs are seeking greater clarity on the way forward. Latest suggestions are the league will resume in July, but behind closed doors. Buffaloes currently hold an eight-point lead at the top of the league table with 18 rounds of matches played.

The league in Lesotho has been suspended since March 17, but there is the hope that games will resume soon. The football association met on Friday and resolved to extend the 2019/20 season until July 31. “The NEC is committed to finding ways of resuming the 2019/20 football season that was suspended in March due to the Corona Virus pandemic and ensuring that all domestic matches are played as soon as it is safe and possible to do so,” said a statement.

The Malagasy Premier League will resume matches when it is safe to do so, though latest plans suggest an August return for the competition. A meeting this coming week could provide greater clarity. Just three points separate top side CNaPS Sport and fourth-placed Ajesaia after 15 rounds of the 22-game season.

Malawi has confirmed they intend to go ahead with their football calendar in 2020, as a meeting of the executive committee on Saturday resolved to continue to engage with government on a return to play in August, with what would be the start of a 2020/21 season. Malawi traditionally plays its league football in a single calendar year. 

Mauritius were the first country in Africa to declare their season cancelled, ending the campaign five games early with GRSE Wanderers and Bolton City sitting joint top of the table. No champions were declared. The country will ease lockdown measures as of midnight on May 30, and individual, non-contact sports can resume. Football remains prohibited, but this will be reviewed on June 15.

The new 2020 season has yet to get under way in Mozambique but the hope is that matches will be able to be played this year. 

The Namibia Premier League was suspended in October 2019 by the Namibia Football Association Normalisation Committee that has been tasked by FIFA to run football in the country. The suspension was due to be discussed at an Exco meeting in April, but that was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Seychelles Football Federation are the first in the region to set a definitive date for the resumption of their domestic league, with Secretary General George Bibi saying that matches would resume on June 22.

The South African Football Association have set up a task team that also includes Premier Soccer League officials to devise return to play protocols that meet the requirements of government. The task team will present their recommendations to SAFA on Monday but the Football bodies have been boosted by the news that contact sports can resume group training under strict conditions. No date has been set for the resumption of matches, but this is not likely to be before July at the earliest.

The Football Association of Zambia intends to finish both the league season and the knockout cup, though a return date for football has yet to be set. The Super League is shaping up for a thrilling finish with just six points separating the top six teams, and most sides having 10 games remaining.

The league season in Zimbabwe had not started prior to the suspension of football activities, and the COVID-19 pandemic could see a seasonal shift in the country. There is a proposal on the table to switch to an August-May calendar, rather than the March-December programme from previous years. ZIFA are set to meet this week to discuss.

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.