By TAOFEEK LAWAL (0805 307 4114, text only)
It was cheering news on October 15, 2020 when the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on Covid-19, headed by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, announced the suspension of ban on sports in Nigeria. On March 18, 2020, the League Management Company (LMC) issued a press statement announcing the suspension of the league owing to the outbreak of the Coronavirus Disease globally.
And in line with the PTF’s directives, the Executive Committee of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) on Tuesday, October 20, 2020 in a communiqué released after a meeting held through a video conference said inter alia, “Following from the lifting of ban on football activities in the country, the Executive Committee endorsed a proposal by the League Management Company to fix the calendar for the 2020/2021 Nigeria Professional Football League to commence anytime from Sunday, 15th November 2020 and end the season by June 2021, with full adherence to the Federal Government’s COVID19 protocols and other requirements as may be prescribed. Full compliance with the Club Licensing regulations is mandatory for Clubs willing to take part in the NPFL. The Executive Committee further mandated the NNL, NWFL and NLO to synchronize their calendars with that of the NPFL with each of them commencing within three weeks of the elite League. However, the Executive Committee made it clear that in line with the Federal Government’s directive, all football activities can commence immediately.”
Barring unforeseen circumstance, the stage is set for full resumption of Nigerian football. And as clearly stated in the communiqué, all the football clubs are expected to comply strictly with the Federal Government’s COVID19 protocols and other rules. The clubs are expected to fumigate players’ camps, clubs’ houses and offices and most importantly conduct Covid-19 test for players and officials before the commencement of the league on November 15. November 15 is some days away and there is still ample time for clubs to conduct the test to show intent of purpose and their readiness for the new season.
The clubs must take the welfare of the players seriously by paying their salaries, bonuses and other emoluments promptly as seen in some African leagues and definitely in top European Leagues. There is no gainsaying in the fact that without the players, the will be no administrators to run the league or officials to coordinate any club duties. The welfare of the players should be on the front burner of every club. The era of players travelling by roads to honour away matches more than 200 kilometers while the officials travel by flights must stop. Players are kings and queens and as such deserves that royal treatment every time.
It is also expected that stand-by ambulances will be stationed at match venues to forestall the avoidable tragedy that claimed Chineme Martins in March this year. Martins, 23, died after collapsing during a game for his club Nasarawa United. Martins fell unconscious, unopposed, during the second half of Nasarawa’s league match against Katsina United in March. Shortly after the ugly incident, the NFF said medical facilities at all clubs must be checked before matches can go ahead.The NFF and the LMC are expected to go beyond the rhetoric and should put things in proper perspective before the commencement date for new season. Nigerians expect befitting changing rooms, clean toilets with soaps, running water and sanitizers in the stadium for home and away teams to guard against COVID-19 among the players. The referees and their assistants must also compulsorily be made to undergo the Cooper Test to ensure their fitness level for the onerous tasks ahead.