It was indeed a cheery development as Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) constituted a COVID-19 Task Force committee to look into the safety procedure for Nigerian football.
The task force is to work with the various league bodies to monitor compliance with the COVID-19 protocols by all football clubs at all levels of the leagues, among other responsibilities.
Chairman of the NFF Security Committee and member of the Organising Committee for the African Nations Championship (CHAN), Alhaji Ibrahim Musa Gusau, heads the task force, which has medical practitioners like Dr. Kweku Tandoh, Dr. Nekwu Okolugbo, Dr. Rotimi Ogungbe and Dr. Babatunde Akinbinu, Christopher Green as members.
We commend this step by the football body, but having one or two former players in the task force would have been splendid to make the committee work better.
We strongly believe a former player like Victor Ezeji with his rich knowledge of the domestic league would have been an asset to the body. The NPFL is ongoing, but the body should evaluate the safety of the players. The female football league initially on break for one week is now on break for one month for safety reasons.
This is also a good step and we expect the Gusau-led committee to follow up from there.
The body should also evaluate the male domestic league and determine how well the teams are conforming with the protocols of the pandemic. There are questions to be answered by the administrators: Are the teams conducting tests every week?
How sincere are these results and from which hospital? There should be a comprehensive review of the COVID- 19 tests being conducted by the domestic league teams. We expect other top sports like wrestling, basketball, athletics and table tennis to also set up COVID-19 committees to look into how they could continue with their programmes unhindered. All the national programmes of basketball that failed to take part last year should be staged this year. Ditto other sports federations.
The forthcoming National Sports Festival, the Principals’ Cup and the Lagos City Marathon are all billed for next month.
The organisers of these events should also have a body that will handle the safety aspect to ensure strict compliance to COVID-19 protocols. As things are, the world is moving on with COVID-19 and administrators in all sports disciplines should follow the trend to ensure the world will not leave the country behind.
The cancellation of the U-17 and U-20 World Cups by FIFA is a big setback that could affect the transition of players into the senior teams on the continent in the next three years.
We expect Nigeria’s administrators of sports, especially football to think out of the box and bring out developmental programmes to boost various sports and to continue to tap talents from the grassroots.
For example, the inauguration of the newly-elected President of the United States of America, Joe Bidden, took place under tight security and more importantly, with strict adherence to COVID-19 protocols.
Former Presidents and top government functionaries attended the colourful event. John Legend was top on the list of musicians that performed to celebrate the new era in the U.S. politics.
All the guests used their face masks and most of them were also on gloves with social distancing duly observed at the White House. It was indeed nice that the U.S. could stage such event despite recording a staggering record figure of COVID-19 cases.
The world is moving on despite the prevalent of the pandemic. In sports, same scenario is ongoing across the world and it is important to cope with the trend. As big as the marathon is in term of attendance, Cairo, Valencia and London recently staged marathon events with strict adherence to COVID-19 protocols.
The first tennis Grand Slam of the year, Australia Open, is expected to go on in February while other sporting events are also to be staged.
Though two FIFA age grade tournament – U-17 and U-20 male and female world Cups – were cancelled, many other events including leagues across the world are still ongoing.
In Yaounde, Cameroon the home-based Africa Nations Cup tagged CHAN, is currently on centre stage just one week after the WAFU B U-17 football tournament ended in Togo. The U-20 cadre took place in Benin also recently.
The AFCON for U-17 and U-20 will also be staged later this year. We make bold to say the step taken by the NFF should be embraced by all other federations while the ministry of sports should also monitor the compliance level of all sports teams to the COVID-19 protocols.
In fact, the ministry, led by Sunday Dare, should play a pioneering role in getting all sports federations to be ready to move on despite the threat being posed by COVID-19.