Last Thursday, local football resumed after an eight-month hiatus. Like all other events, the beautiful game was suspended in March when government first imposed a strict lockdown.
This forced the Federation of Uganda Football Associations (Fufa) to end the country premier competition – the Uganda Premier League – prematurely.
Consequently, Vipers, leaders then, were awarded the title with five games to spare. Soon after stadiums were deserted in a manner similar to all other sectors of the economy.
In fact, it was easy to refer to this as a dead year as international competitions also got the same treatment.
It’s not until last month that the international events resumed under tough procedures. The national football team – Uganda Cranes – played South Sudan in an African Cup of Nations qualifiers.
The game at St Mary’s Stadium, Kitende, followed very strict processes. Not only was it played behind closed doors, also only 200 people were allowed in, teams and the media inclusive. Photographers had to be tested too. The game passed without incident. After that success, Fufa decided to have the UPL resume. Twice, the league had been postponed and realistically, it didn’t seem like it would resume until next February.
After those delays and institution of procedures such as testing and restricting access, the league got the greenlight amid skepticism.
However, you shudder to imagine whether the rules will be followed to the dot for the entire period the pandemic is with us. We have seen that other sectors of the economy that opened earlier have dropped the proverbial ball over time. The hand washing, mask wearing, temperature checks and social distancing are not as good as they were earlier this year.
For the three matchdays so far, most of the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) were followed especially restricting access and mask wearing. It has to stay this way for Fufa who have put in place a Covid-19 task force headed by Dr Apollo Ahimbisibwe. Their task is to move around the stadiums and ensure that rules are being followed.
With contact unavoidable, a few cases of Covid-19 in one team could lead to mass infection. As teams got rid of the cobwebs last week, there were so many players missing. No official reasons were given for this but there was talk at stadiums that some players returned positive results and had to be withdrawn from their respective teams.
Fufa, the UPL secretariat and the clubs should be more honest and speak out with the intention of creating mass awareness. It would also emphasize that they are doing something about it and not wait for the sheriff to stop the games for not following set rules.
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