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4 MORE WEEKS WITHOUT FOOTBALL

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MBABANE – It is going to be a long wait for local football followers.

The acting Prime Minister, Themba Masuku, yesterday announced an extension of the partial lockdown in the country by four weeks, dashing the slim hopes that sports, including football, would be allowed to resume action anytime soon. All sporting activities in the country are currently suspended in an effort by government to curb the spread of COVID-19 that has already claimed many lives. This means that MTN Premier League games will remain on lockdown until towards the end of February and as previously announced, all clubs have been banned from holding group training sessions. Young Buffaloes and Sihlangu Semnikati will be hoping for nothing but good news from government on the resumption of football.

For Buffaloes, the challenge is that they have a CAF Confederation first leg playoff match against Tunisia giants Etoile du Sahel to prepare for and it will be played on Valentines Day (February 14, 2020). This leaves the army giants with less than three weeks to prepare for a side ranked eigth in Africa and previous winners of this competition. The partial lockdown extension by four weeks could leave the army side with no option but to withdraw from the tournament as they will have no time to prepare for the game.

Special

It has been confirmed that Buffaloes made a special request to government through the Eswatini Football Association (EFA) to be granted special permission to resume training.
It would now appear that the request was not successful as group training is still suspended. It is not only Buffaloes that are affected by the current state of affairs as Sihlangu have to start preparations for their 2022 AFCON Qualifying matches against Guinea-Bissau and Senegal scheduled for March. The nation’s pride is also hoping to compete in the COSAFA Senior Men Cup expected to be staged in South Africa sometime this year.

Just like Buffaloes, the national team cannot resume preparations pending the review of the ban by government on not just football but all sporting codes in the country. EFA’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Frederick Mngomezulu has always maintained that they will wait for a directive from government on when it is safe to resume action. He did, however, assert that all football activities, including training by every club, were prohibited for now. Buffaloes have also stated that they will respect the ban and will resume training when given the green light. Ministry of Sports, Culture and Youth Affairs Communications Officer Sibongiseni Zondi, offered a ray of hope for Buffaloes. “The Buffaloes issue is being discussed and a direction will be given to the affected parties once finalised. The position now is that all sporting activities remain suspended with the extended four weeks of partial lockdown,” Zondi said briefly.

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