Testing time for local football
The set of guidelines set down by the National COVID-19 Task-force to facilitate the resumption of the national club championships, organised by the St Vincent and the Grenadines Football Federation (SVGFF), surely will test the sport’s adaptability to change.
Suspended for the past three and a half months because of the coronavirus pandemic, a restart of the championships, which translates to the completion of the premier and first division, is contingent on a number of protocols that must be met.
Among those stipulations and most critically, is that all officials, match commissioners, referees, and staff of the SVGFF, and any other personnel attached to the championships who will be present at the Victoria Park, must be tested for the coronavirus. This test though will be the simple baseline test, often referred to as the “rapid test”.
In other words, anyone who is not compliant will not be allowed to compete and or participate for the remainder of the championships.
Conversely, a positive test will mean that player or official will not be permitted to compete or participate in the championships.
Furthermore, anyone who tests positive on the second testing will see their club and any other club they competed against being re-tested.
Among some of the other requirements are for random testing throughout the championships, temperature checks on entry to the venue, the sanitising of the dressing rooms prior, during and after matches, along with sanitising breaks mid-way of each half.
Critically, all 42 remaining matches will be played at the Victoria Park, without the presence of spectators.
But the overall protocols, whilst seem reasonable, may pose a challenge for many of our footballers, who are not accustomed to operating under such a controlled and structured environment.
It will be a new frontier and mental adjustment, as no one has envisaged such changes and has not been prepared to have their lives and football norms reconfigured in such a short space of time.
However, with the virus being with us, and not expected to disappear any time soon, it must be a dry run for what is expected to be the standard procedure from here on in.
Therefore, compliance to the present guidelines tis critical for footballers, their club administrators, match officials and others directly connected to the championships, as a test of their mettle.
Beyond ticking the various boxes to have the championships resume and hopefully come to an end, would serve to enhance the image of football locally.
Football is seen as a sport that in blunt, lacking finesse and combative by nature, hence, the worst outcomes are often perceived.
But should the matters of compliance be met and the matches are held devoid of many hiccups, the rating scale and face of the sport would certainly go up a notch.
Similarly, the exercise to get the championships recommence and the ongoing check lists would be the acid test for our administrators at the club level and those at the national level, to evaluate their readiness to take their acumen to a next level.
Such a situation sets itself for football’s betterment rather than be seen as a set of obstructive sign posts that cannot be detoured.
Apart from the plaudits that football is to accrue incrementally from putting the administrative mechanisms in place for the rest of the national club championships, it can be the green light for other contact sports, such as rugby and netball, to use as a blueprint for them to resume active competition.
This column though can only hope for the best, as it is left to the sport’s decision-makers, the clubs’ management personnel and other policymakers, to make the best of an unprecedented situation.
Socially, it is also pertinent that the footballers optimise this release valve to shake off the months of little football activity and show what they are made of, whenever the national football club championships get going again.
We here in St Vincent and the Grenadines are somewhat blessed as it relates to the resumption of football, as most of our Caribbean neighbours have abandoned their tournaments, with a view of starting from scratch next time around.
This speaks volumes for us a people, that we are handling a crisis with care rather than fear.