How PSL coaches feel about the bio-bubble: 'You just get paranoid!'

Pitso Mosimane (Gallo Images)
Pitso Mosimane (Gallo Images)
  • The Nedbank Cup kicks off on Saturday, with Bloemfontein Celtic facing Baroka FC and Mamelodi Sundowns taking on Bidvest Wits.
  • Dylan Kerr is concerned about his players' physical and mental health.
  • Pitso Mosimane has sent Chloorkop staff to keep tabs on the maintenance of Dobsonville Stadium's pitch.

Saturday will finally see the resumption of the Premier Soccer League (PSL) following a four-month pause of all football action in the country due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Nedbank Cup will start proceedings, with Baroka FC and Bloemfontein Celtic playing in the first semi-final of the day at 14:00 at Orlando Stadium in Soweto. The evening - at 19:15 - will see Mamelodi Sundowns entertain Bidvest Wits at the same venue in a mouth-watering encounter.

All 32 teams - Absa Premiership and GladAfrica Championship - are situated in the Gauteng region in a biologically safe environment (BSE) as the PSL seeks to complete the 2019/20 campaign.

The clubs have also gone into a draw to select home stadiums for the five weeks they will be in the bio-bubble to keep things neutral.

Before being allowed entry into the BSE, all players, including staff, need to be tested twice for the coronavirus.

During a virtual press conference, Baroka coach Dylan Kerr expressed his concern for the players and staff, ahead of entering the bio-bubble, before the Limpopo side takes on Celtic.

"There's loads of concerns, there's loads of issues," said the former Leeds United defender.

"On the football side of things, the first questions I ask the players when they arrive at training is 'Good morning, how are you? How are your legs? Do you feel tired? Do you feel any muscle strains? Or any injury possibilities? That's the norm now.

"We have to make sure that we ask the personal questions: 'Are you OK mentally? Are you ready to practice? Are you okay to do it at this tempo?'

"We've had to change everything in the training programme in the last two weeks and it's not being fair to my players to try and push themselves to a limit where they are not going to injure or hurt themselves.

"And now we're going into a game on Saturday - 90 minutes in a semi-final - where both teams are going to be at it, and it is the ones that don't lose players early in the game that don't have to make changes."

Kerr added: "The mentality thing in this bubble, we're going to be locked up in a hotel room on your own, for practically 22 hours a day. The only time we'll escape from the rooms is from training and the games.

"So, it's going to be tough. They usually share a room. I don't think we're sharing. But the PSL has done its homework. They've probably asked all around the world how things have happened in the other leagues and we've just got to get on with it. But it's not going to be easy."

Meanwhile, Masandawana mentor Pitso Mosimane said he had sent Chloorkop staff to Dobsonville Stadium, the Brazilians' home base, to keep tabs on the maintenance of the pitch and stadium facilities.

"I've sent my people there … the people who look after Chloorkop pitches and all that. I've told them that their next office is no longer Chloorkop, their next office is Dobsonville Stadium," Mosimane added.

"They must be there from 09:00 to 17:00 and make sure that the pitch is ready and if it is in a proper condition because you've been given a venue to play at. So, you can't be passing the buck.

"If we could take everything to Dobsonville Stadium … you see there are challenges 'you know coach we can't leave the equipment in the township' because we're playing in the township.

"It's the draw that said we must play in the township. So, there are challenges of playing in the township. I grew up in the township. There are challenges in that. And you got to make sure everything is right."

He added: "You know, you just get paranoid about this thing [the coronavirus] … 'oh the groundsman tested positive for covid-19 because I am going to be talking to that guy, I am going to be walking with him on the pitch to say what do we have here?'

"So, you know those protocols. OK, he is tested but where does he stay? Who does he talk to? I am here in Rustenburg. We tried to take the team away from the epicentre, but I need a guy to help me over there [Dobsonville]. So, it’s a challenge. It's football under Covid-19."

The former SuperSport United and Bafana Bafana coach said many things have changed in his training sessions while also touching on the mood of his players in the camp ahead of the restart.

"Look, you can't be negative; you have to stay positive. At training, is the only time I see the boys," he added.

"We explain the type of training that we'll have on the Zoom [videoconference]. We have meetings on the Zoom on what we are training today and what we want to achieve.

"The way I interact with my players is not the same anymore. We don't have meetings where we sit together, and we eat at different times. So, I can't talk about the mood, I don't see my players. We don't see each other.

"Normally, players are doing well when they are sharing a room, they talk. Now, everybody is in their own room. It's football within Covid-19," said Mosimane.

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