'Can we go watch football now?' - Calls for government to open stadiums as curfew is scrapped

31 December 2021 - 11:00
By Kyle Zeeman
Some fans were allowed to attend Bafana Bafana matches earlier this year.
Image: Alon Skuy Some fans were allowed to attend Bafana Bafana matches earlier this year.

There have been renewed calls for sports stadiums to be opened to spectators after the government scrapped the Covid-19 curfew on Thursday evening.

The decision to scrap the curfew follows a special cabinet meeting on Thursday.

“Based on the trajectory of the pandemic, the levels of vaccination in the country and the available capacity within the health sector,” the cabinet decided to make these changes to adjusted alert level 1 with immediate effect:

  • The curfew is lifted. There will be no restrictions on the hours of movement of people.
  • Gatherings are restricted to no more than 1,000 people indoors and no more than 2,000 people outdoors. Where the venue is too small to accommodate these numbers with appropriate social distancing, no more than 50% of the capacity of the venue may be used. All other restrictions remain in place.

“The risk of increase in infections is still high given the high transmissibility of the Omicron variant. Government calls on all organisers of gatherings to ensure that all health protocols are observed and that all attendees are encouraged to be vaccinated,” the presidency said.

While many celebrated the move, others wanted the limits on live sports revised.

FNB Stadium in Gauteng was briefly open for Bafana Bafana's football matches earlier this year, but sports arenas remain largely closed to fans.

Sports minister Nathi Mthethwa said in February allowing fans back into stadiums will be at the tail-end of the government’s process of fully opening up the economy

Royal AM superfan Joy “Mama Joy” Chauke welcomed the return of local football league matches in the evenings, but called for spectators to be allowed into stadiums.

“It is a good move, but supporters want to return to the stadiums. They can’t be saying matches are moving back to their original time slots but they are not opening for us.

“I am hoping that by January or February we will be allowed to go back to the stadiums because that is the most important thing for the fans out there. It has been so long. Covid-19 is going to be with us for a long time to come, I think the best way to go about it is to allow vaccinated fans into stadiums,” she said.

On social media, many said they were ready to attend live sports events in stadiums and asked President Cyril Ramaphosa to “do the right thing”.