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Football players' union to 'join EFF picket' on opening up sports stadiums

19 January 2022 - 16:17 By Marc Strydom
Orlando Pirates players warm up for their DStv Premiership Soweto derby match against Kaizer Chiefs in a closed FNB Stadium on November 6 2021.
Orlando Pirates players warm up for their DStv Premiership Soweto derby match against Kaizer Chiefs in a closed FNB Stadium on November 6 2021.
Image: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix/Gallo Images

The SA Football Players Union (Safpu) has thrown its weight behind the EFF’s march to sports minister Nathi Mthethwa’s offices in Pretoria on Thursday to call for the safe opening of sports stadiums within Covid-19 protocols.

Safpu said football players' “patience is wearing thin” at playing in front of empty stadiums, and that it would have representatives at the march.

“The union joins the chorus of people and parties who are calling to have the gates fully opened at stadiums across the country,” Safpu said in a statement on Wednesday.

“The status of locked doors and keeping fans at bay needs to be done away with. It is time to allow the fans back and with that the regeneration of small, informal businesses that have lost valuable income during the dark months of lockdown.

“In solidarity with the cause, Safpu will unite with the picket hosted by the EFF and pledge our support for getting stadiums across the country open, pleading for the support the players need and making a way for fans to enjoy the game they love in person, not off a screen.

“We believe South Africans are responsible and have proven to be able to adhere to restrictions and Covid-19 protocols, and believe it is time we are all trusted to go back into sports arenas, like the rest of the world.”

Safpu secretary-general Nhlanhla Shabalala said that stadiums are big enough to safely allow in many more than the current government limit of 2,000 fans.

“In the name of football, let the fans support their teams fully in outdoor stadiums that are big enough to social distance and keep safe. FNB Stadium is about a 90,000-seater venue. Allow fans back, not to capacity but enough so that the stands are filled in the safest possible manner, which exceeds the current provision of 2,000 people allowed.

“Outdoor venues should not pose a problem. Fans are an integral part of every match, and every player feels the same way. Players play better with the 12th man at their side — we saw this during Bafana Bafana's World Cup qualifiers last year. It is time, and patience is wearing thin.”

Mthethwa on Wednesday described the planned picket by the EFF as ill-advised and populist theatrics.

Premier Soccer League clubs have complained the 2,000 limit is not feasible as allowing in a crowd that small cannot cover the cost of hosting spectators.


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