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SAFA doctor keen on more fans, but doesn't want football to be Covid-19 super-spreader

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Thulani Ngwenya (Getty Images)
Thulani Ngwenya (Getty Images)
  • South African Football Association's chief medical officer Thulani Ngwenya said they've got a responsibility to keep football Covid-19 free as much as possible.
  • 2 000 fans will be allowed to watch next week's 2022 World Cup qualifier between South Africa and Zimbabwe at the FNB Stadium.
  • Ethiopia and Malawi, who will be playing their qualifiers in South Africa, have also applied to have fans at their matches.

The South African Football Association's chief medical officer Thulani Ngwenya was at pains to explain why there were more crowds at political rallies as compared to the 2000 sporting events are allowed in stadiums.

Footage of an African National Congress rally at a packed King Zwelithini Stadium main grandstand in uMlazi, south of Durban has been circulating on social media.

It's led to consternation on the streets, especially with Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma also in attendance at the rally.

The Disaster Management Act currently allows for 2 000 fans to be at stadiums, with SAFA making 1 584 tickets available for sale for next week's crucial 2022 World Cup Qualifier at the FNB Stadium.

Ngwenya said they've got a responsibility to keep football Covid-19 free as much as possible.

"It's a question that we've been fielding from plenty of concerned parties. However, we are an organised organisation," Ngwenya said.

"We've got an added responsibility that football doesn't become a Covid-19 super-spreader.

"We want to get to stadiums being at full capacity and for us to get there, we need to make sure that we don't contribute to the resurgence of the virus.

"That's why we're being cautious with the systems we're putting in place because we want to get more people vaccinated so we can obtain herd immunity."

Ngwenya also said Malawi and Ethiopia have applied to have crowds for their World Cup qualifiers against Cameroon and Ghana respectively.

The Malawi game will be on Saturday and Ethiopia's all-important game will be on Thursday, both to be hosted by the Orlando Stadium.

Ngwenya said the two respective federations, who have generous diasporas in South Africa, are still awaiting a response from the relevant authorities.

"Ethiopia has made a request to SAFA and the organisation has put together a proposal to the sports minister Nathi Mthethwa," Ngwenya said.

"There's missing documentation that still needs to be submitted and a few logistical matters that need to be dealt with.

"The same is also applicable for Malawi and their status is the same as Ethiopia's"

Stadium Management South Africa's chief executive officer Bertie Grobbelaar said the costs of the Covid-19 maintenance for the FNB Stadium-hosted games have been borne by SAFA, but they have also been able to assist where they can.

"It costs a lot more and there's no way, with 2 000 spectators, of which 1 584 will be made available for sale, won't come close to covering those additional costs, " Grobbelaar said.

"We are assisting with reduced rates at the moment and also providing discounts."

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