Absa Premiership

Jordaan: Player safety needs to be guaranteed before resuming soccer in SA

Danny Jordaan (Gallo Images)
Danny Jordaan (Gallo Images)

SAFA president Danny Jordaan sat down with Sport24 to discuss when football will return to South Africa and the requirements to ensure players' safety.

How have you been dealing personally with the lockdown?

I’ve been home, but I do have a cycling machine so I’ve been cycling a bit trying to keep fit. I also have all the gadgets available to me at home so I’ve been engaging with FIFA and with different people.

How is it being the SAFA president especially during these unprecedented times?

It’s difficult, of course as a football association it’s something that no one had ever planned for. If you look at what’s happening in Europe and the impact on football for clubs, players and associations you can see the major disruption caused. No football organisation or president has ever had to face the circumstances under which we now have to operate.

When do you predict football will return to South Africa and how would the process work?

The world has gone through playing behind closed doors and as you see most of the European clubs started that. But all of those matches produced positive infections with players, coaches and even owners. So when it came to our opportunity to consider this, SAFA sought the medical advice from experts and they were clear that given the difficulty in South African football we should not entertain the idea of playing behind closed doors.

Now when are we going to start playing?

We are going to Stage 4 and that doesn’t provide any opportunity for football to resume. If you listen to just one statement that the president made he said you are not allowed to move out of your province. Therefore it’s not possible to play.

Also with infections increasing on a daily basis, it’s also not possible. FIFA were quite clear that no league, club or organisation may resume unless it is safe to do so.

Football is an industry that counts on the performance on the players and it is clear that the players need to be medically fit and physically fit.

Many leagues across Europe have or are about to resume training, but how does SA compare to upholding the requirements to resume?

What we have to look at is the medical capacity of the clubs because if a player has an underlying condition he is at greater risk. So somehow we have to check that to make sure that no one is at risk.

There is also the regulation that states that if any person dies because of an activity, it is the event organisers that must be charged. They may even be charged for murder. So it is the event organisers’ who have a huge responsibility to safeguard players.

How closely is SAFA working with both FIFA and the PSL during these times?

We had a meeting with FIFA last week and we received a request from CAF regarding our soccer competitions which we will submit tomorrow. We had agreed that we will meet with the PSL if a final position needs to be taken on the resumption. Also, the Minister of Sport wants to have a conversation on these matters of exactly at what stage will we be able to resume football.

How will funding by FIFA be distributed and will it be more focused on grassroots football?

We’re still waiting on the funding from FIFA. Usually when they provide funding and I think it will be in the order of 500 000 dollars. They usually provide the allocations. Once we receive the funding we will be able to look at how much is available for certain sectors.

Can you elaborate on your reported differences with the PSL and especially the chairperson Irvin Khoza and the result of your meeting to resolve any outstanding issues?

We have to have a single position on this matter. It is the crown jewel of football whereby the players are able to perform. Their performance and health must be paramount.

We had a discussion on the matter and we had already because I’m also a vice-president at a CAF, decided at a CAF level that we’re going to suspend all CAF competitions. So when the idea was raised that the PSL would like to consider playing behind closed doors. We indicated that it’s not a new concept that had been tried in various countries and there is no evidence where they played behind closed doors that there were no infections.

In fact, it was the opposite.

Everyone including players coaches and owners, for instances (head coach Mikel) Arteta of Arsenal and many other players. So we said we must learn from this. So we cannot agree that we need to play behind closed doors. We did have a meeting with the Minister Mthethwa and we agreed to say let us move forward and work together. Let us have a common understanding of what is in the overall interest of South African football. I think that position will prevail now.

Lastly, what is your message to the football fans of South Africa?

I know it’s frustrating but we must continue to observe what we are asked to do. Stay at home, stay safe, keep social distances, and wash your hands. Do not gather in huge numbers and let us all work together to flatten the curve.

If we do that then soon we will be on the field sooner rather than later.

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