Look into how sports  activities will resume

Friday September 18 2020
soc01pix

Dreaming Big. Shamira Nalugya (L) whistles past Tanzania’s Protasia Mbunda during a Fifa Women U-17 World Cup Qualifier at Lugogo. Uganda whitewashed Tanzania 5-0 to book a date with Cameroon with a 6-2 aggregate score. PHOTO | ISMAIL KEZAALA

By ANDREW MWANGURA

It has, indeed, been some wait since President Museveni suspended sporting activities - under mass gatherings - on March 18 as the country waged war on the Coronavirus pandemic.

But if what transpired in the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday is anything to go by, sportsmen and women playing regulated sports can prepare to get back to action. President Museveni is expected to make sports resumption, among other things categorised under mass gatherings, official when he addresses the nation on the status of Covid-19 this weekend. According to the President’s Press Secretary, Don Wanyama - in a tweet this week -, Museveni is scheduled to address the country on the aforementioned tomorrow.  

Sports resumption follows series of engagements between National Council of Sports (NCS), Uganda Olympic Committee (UOC), the line Ministry, different sports associations, the Health Ministry and Covid-19 National Task Force among others.

Actually, the President - after consulting with scientists - gave resumption the greenlight - but without fans - as early as July. The Education and Sports Minister, Janet Museveni, communicated the President’s message to her juniors just about the same time.

But without noticable follow-up from relevant authorities, coupled with pressure from sports associations, line State Minister Hamson Obua wrote to the Prime Minister on September 10 indulging him on the way forward.
That letter was well-calculated as a Cabinet sitting was eminent.

Our sources from that sitting confirm that indeed, the matter was deliberated on, and the President will now officially announce systematic and regulated return to sporting action in his upcoming address.

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The steps
“First, this resumption of sports does not include community sports,” a highly placed source, who cannot be quoted because they are not qualified to officially speak on the matter, told us.

“It will have to be systematic, with regulated numbers and following all Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) in place and, only regulated sports under the 51 national associations will resume.”

Some of the conditions for the steady return to action are that national federations will have to submit to the NCS games designated venues, not including Namboole since it’s still a Covid patients treatment centre. The venues will be verified for their readiness and sanitized regularly. All games fixtures must also be submitted, with the exact number of sportsmen and women, coaches, referees and administrators expected.

The issue of fans not attending for a foreseeable future was made clear, but it was also acknowledged that fans cannot be left out completely.
Therefore, national associations will be encouraged to consider live streaming of games on social media, and those with TV sponsorships to proceed with their telecasting. 

National teams priority
Our source also told us that only federations that show immediate readiness will be allowed to resume. “We do not want to take any chances,” said the source.
The national teams across all disciplines, with those in dire need financially, will take government’s priority in terms of funding for camps and international events. 

Indoor venues like the Lugogo Arena will be encouraged to host one sporting discipline per day, a departure from pre-Covid when more than one could take turns to play. 
Clubs like in the StarTimes Uganda Premier League (SUPL) are likely to be allowed to host their respective games at their home grounds, but that will depend on them meeting acceptable health standards.

Each national association is also expected to provide one contact person, preferably a medical doctor, who will be responsible for following up in case of anything.
The media numbers will also be regulated, with accreditation the method used. 

Tests and costs
Then there is this big concern. Each Covid-19 test costs $65 (Shs240,000) per person, and every club or team will be expected to test every two weeks. 

According to our source, NCS will be pushing for the government to at least take care of national teams’ tests.
However, with most sports clubs in Uganda struggling to even pay their players salaries, this remains a big worry.
 
“After the President announces, NCS and the federations will have to meet and discuss all that,” allayed our source.
“For now, let’s wait for the President’s pronouncement. At least government will provide national federations with PPEs (Personal Protective Equipment).”

Allowing sports resumption does not mean there will not be positive cases reported once action is underway, and all involved must be psychologically prepared for that. 
“All situations must be managed scientifically and we are aware,” assured the source.

Fufa are expected to kick off with the Big League playoffs to determine the third team to be promoted to the UPL, with the U-17 women national team also expected to enter camp.
National men’s basketball and football also have international engagements in November.

Fufa are said to have assured NCS that they will foot hosting and accommodation bills for the clubs involved in the playoffs.
At least 5,266 positive cases had been registered on Wednesday since tests started in March, with fatalities at 60 people by press time. 

COSTS CONCERN 

Big Worry. Each Covid-19 test costs $65 (Shs240,000) per person, and every club or team will be expected to test every two weeks. Our sources say NCS will be pushing for the government to at least take care of national teams’ tests. 

amwanguhya@ug.nationmedia.com

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