Gaborone – Botswana has scrapped the 2020-2021 topflight domestic soccer league following a surge in COVID-19 cases.
The Botswana Football Association (BFA) executive committee reached the decision this week as the number of COVID-19 cases in the country topped 44,000 and deaths reached 684.
The Botswana Premier League was supposed to resume in March but was postponed after the government imposed restrictions on movements up until September.
BFA President Mclean Letshwiti this week told stakeholders that, “As an association we take the wellbeing of our players, stakeholders and supporters serious. Zimbabwe stopped playing football at the same time we did and they are contemplating going back to the fields sometimes in May this year, that is what they said. I am aware that Botswana has taken a little bit longer, but I want you to understand that as leaders, myself as the president of the association, the president of CAF, the president of FIFA, our responsibility is to protect lives of our athletes.”
Both the Confederation of African Football and world soccer governing body FIFA have advised national FAs to implement roadmaps suited to their domestic conditions vis-à-vis the COVID-19 pandemic.
Letshwiti added that “people will tell you that in South Africa they are playing … if they have an outbreak involving 1,000 players they have enough beds to accommodate those people. Botswana does not have that capacity. We must be realistic as people, we are not the same”.
According to Letshwiti some people continue to accuse him of failing to negotiate with government to find alternative ways of allowing football activities to resume.
“You know what state of emergency means? Only one person makes decisions in the best interest of you not even our minister can decide whether we can play or not. What I can tell is that we have been working around the clock to try and convince the Ministry of Health that we can go and play. As far as BFA is concerned we have done everything possible. We have come with alternatives and in our view subject to health authorities we should be able to return to play very soon,” he said.
Botswana’s Parliament in April extended the State of Emergency by six months and retained some restrictions aimed at combating the spread of COVID-19 such as prohibiting gatherings of more than 50 people.