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SAFETY FIRST - SPORTS ASSOCIATIONS

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MBABANE – These are undoubtedly tough times for sports associations’ leaders as sports continue to be wrecked by the COVID-19 pandemic.

For the next two weeks, there will be no sporting activities in the country taking place, as per the order by the government through the Eswatini Sport and Recreation Council (ESRC). 

As a result, some of the sporting codes have been compelled to abandon their plans and programmes, while others have not been in action since the COVID-19 outbreak in March 2020.

A majority of the associations’ presidents could not hide their disappointment in the way the pandemic has affected sports. They are still positive though that after the COVID-19 pandemic, especially with the vaccine on its way, there would be light at the end of the tunnel...

What they had to say:

 

Mfanafuthi Vilakati (Oyama)

“The COVID-19 pandemic has hit hard on the sporting fraternity and country at large. The second wave is clearly more deadly than the first one as it seemed to have come when the COVID-19 mental fatigue had set in, with many individuals in the country. I would like to appeal to all Oyama Karatekas to be very vigilant in observing the COVID-19 prevention protocols as stipulated by the Ministry of Health. This is the time where their discipline in playing their part to win the war against COVID-19 is most needed.                                  The coronavirus has undone almost a decade of gains that the sport has made as competitive operations. A mammoth task awaits the oyama organisation in trying to rebuild and regain the momentum lost over the past 10 months. We believe in God for the strength and favour to rise high once again. Athletes should continue to exercise at home to keep in shape.” 

 

Muntu Dlamini (Cue Sport/ Pool)

“The second wave of COVID-19 is a serious threat to all lives, even outside sports. It has put a spanner on our moving wheels, but there is nothing we can do. Life comes first. People must keep safe at all costs. We can just encourage players to comply with the Ministry of Health and WHO’s advice on handling the situation.  Stay home, sanitise, and wash hands. Once the situation has improved, they will be given enough time to practice and regain their form. For those fortunate to have pool tables in their houses, keep practising. We trust that this will be over, and we will still have all our players and followers.” 

 

Sipho Ntshalintshali (Shooting)

“First of all, I would like to pass my sincere condolences to families and the country at large for every life that was lost due to COVID-19. I urge all shottists to take this seriously to make sure that they follow all the regulations to avoid the spread of the virus. We as the shooting association, have been affected by the COVID-19 big time as we only played two tournaments. We wanted to start our league soon, but all that has been put on hold. There is nothing we can do because health comes first and for us to play, we have to be healthy. We trust in God that this nightmare will pass and will be all free from all the frustrations.”

Zakhele Dlamini (Taekwondo)

“With the number of COVID-19 escalating, we are in trouble. We had to cancel our tournaments including a regional tour despite that we had already done almost all the preparations. The COVID-19 pandemic affected us big time. We need to sit round the table and start preparing for the next step for life after this situation we are in. I believe that we will survive this and it will pass, especially when we do what needs to be followed to be safe. We now hope that the vaccine will rescue the situation and we are optimistic that life will continue. Athletes must continue preparing and training. This is our last year in office as executive and everything is spoilt, but there is still hope.”

 

Webster Lukhele (Boxing)

“We are living under a tough situation due to COVID-19. The second wave is more dangerous and everyone is at risk of being infected. It has flu-like symptoms, so emaSwati must treat it like flu. It is important that every home has PPE and own sanitisers, vitamin C and zinc among others. These are the things that can fight the COVID-19. When well taken care of, it disappears in the body. We have to fight. It is affecting us big time. Boxing is a contact sport, but for training you can do individual training. We are still to talk to managers and do individual training. Purchase sanitisers and things like punching bags and gloves must be sanitised now and again. Every instrument to be used must be sanitised. Vaccine must find us in shape and emaSwati must take this COVID-19 seriously.”

 

Mfanafuthi ‘Taribo’ Bhembe (Teqball)

“We have been hit very hard by COVID-19 and the second wave has claimed so many lives already, it is very important that we stay safe and keep on fighting this viru. I am an athlete myself and do encourage every other athlete to respect the ban and take all precautions and preventions to stay safe. Keeping fit is key in the fight against COVID-19, so let all athletes try to train individually. Teqball like all other sports, has been affected in a huge way. We are currently organising our very first Teqball Challenger Series with dates already out, but have been forced to postpone to later dates. Teqball being a new sport needed all the time for promotion and development, but the COVID-19 hit has been a big blow. There cannot be sports without life, so it is important that we save our lives as well as others.” 

 

Maxwell Jele (Tennis)

“The impact of COVID-19 is devastating in all spheres of life. The sport industry is taking a serious knock as well since sport also has a recreational therapeutic aspect to it hence the national is losing out from these benefits through unavoidable lockdowns. The second wave came at a time when things were getting back to normal, therefore, it is really disturbing that the gains that had been made have now been reversed. Nonetheless, we appreciate and understand government’s intervention as a means to save the lives of emaSwati. I would implore all athletes to play their role in assisting government by adhering to the call of following all protocols associated with the prevention drive. The tennis programme has been greatly affected since we were already on a recovery path. We had scheduled a number of events this month, which have now been put on hold. We are, however, optimistic that things will flow once again in the near future.”

 

Glenda Warburton (Equestrian)

“The COVID-19 pandemic, particularly the second wave, needs to be taken seriously.  We need to respect each other and be careful in following all protocols. Keep training, stay fit, healthy and safe. Competition time will come, you need to be ready. Remember progress happens in the long hours behind the scenes, training. We are fortunate that equestrian is a low-risk sport, with no contact between humans. It is an outdoor sport, one that has few spectators. We have had to cancel competitions and training clinics. The border closures impacted us greatly - our athletes cannot travel to competitions, trainers cannot come and conduct clinics so our training programmes frustratingly go back on hold. We spoke of training- our horses need to be kept fit, exercised and schooled. The yard owners cannot manage this alone. They need the owners, the riders to be allowed to work their horses. We will be making application to government in this regard. In the meantime, we continue to plan for the year as best we can. My prayer is for all of us to be safe and healthy and get through this devastating crisis.”

 

Herman Jele (Swimming)

“COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on the entire world. The first wave was really intense, however, the second wave is of a more severe strain which is claiming many more lives than the first one. It is imperative that we all observe and adhere to the preventive measures in order to flatten the curve. My advice to athletes is that they must isolate and minimise unnecessary movement and trips especially to places and spaces where there are many people and confined spaces, with limited air movement. To maintain fitness, the athletes should continue to engage in dry land training regimes. Swimming has definitely felt the impact of Covid-19. All events have been cancelled for the next two weeks as per government regulations, which means club training, has also been suspended for the duration.” 

 

Zakhele Dlamini (Athletics)

“The second wave is devastating to say the least, it is wreaking havoc and we are losing so many lives. One doesn’t even know where to start, except to pass our sincere condolences to all those who have lost their loved ones and to caution everyone to stay safe. To our athletes and all athletics lovers we say please do not despair, history tells us that there has been similar events from the past, so even this one shall come to pass. Let us take heed of the advice from the government and health experts, to keep ourselves safe. We are lucky to exist in a technologically advanced world; athletes are, therefore, advised to make use of such technologies to stay in touch with their coaches as well as other athletes as they continue to train in their private spaces. We would like to unearth new talent from all corners of Eswatini as soon as this is over and we plead with all potential partners to open their doors as we come knocking for partnership and/or resources. It is our dream to put Eswatini on the map one day and we say. ‘Together For Gold’.”

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Is desperation creeping in among emaSwati because of the COVID-19 pandemic?