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FANS APPEAL TO PM TO CONSIDER UNBANNING THEM

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MBABANE – After the Prime Minister (PM), Cleopas Dlamini, announced that fans would not be allowed into stadiums, the Times Sports Desk has been inundated with calls and emails from concerned   football followers.

The fans are speaking in one voice requesting the PM to allow fans to return to stadiums. They noted that the Football Vaccination Campaign was in vain if fans were not allowed into stadiums. The statement which was issued on Saturday by the PM, states that: “Premier League, National First Division and national teams’ football is permitted. However, no spectators are allowed at any sporting event.” Concerned football supporter, Knowledge Ngwenya said the PM’s statement was not well received by the football fraternity.

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“This does not sit down well with lots of football supporters as they were hoping government will consider the return of a certain vaccinated figure back into the stadiums to help teams survive financially,” Ngwenya said. The elite league is expected to start this weekend and followed by the First Division League set to start following week on the October 30.

“May the government authorities understand that our football bosses complied with FIFA laws, Eswatini Football Association (E.F.A) laws and Premier League of Eswatini (P.L.E) laws of the game by continuing digging deep into their own pockets and families, just to be able to Finance the teams daily and monthly expenditures, as supporters we could not do so as they were banned from stadiums due to COVID-19 the whole football season 2020/2021,” he said.

He made it clear that he was writing the email in my capacity as a concerned football supporter, who is undergoing the pain of teams struggling without finances.
He said to meet teams halfway, vaccinated supporters should be allowed back into stadiums as they had noted in some neighbouring countries. “I am not into any politics, but I pray and beg government authorities to consider the continued banning of football spectators from stadiums, especially as the teams are not receiving any financial support from government to run them,” he contended.

Mbabane Highlanders supporter Siboniso ‘Remix’ Maseko also appealed for the PM to reconsider his decision. “We miss watching football in stadiums and that is why when the PLE invited us for the vaccination campaign for football, we obliged. We   have been calling for other fans to also vaccinate so that we slow the spread of the virus,” he said. Mbabane Swallows  supporter Muzi ‘Bondas’ Simelane said it was only football that had been left behind in as far as the adjustment of the C OVID-19 regulations was concerned.

“Life is normal in the country; we board kombis where there is hardly any social distancing. I am assuring the government to kindly allow back atleast 1 000 fans per team. We will see to it that social distancing is maintained,” he said. Manzini Wanderers’ Fisiwe Zwane said while government was right to be cautious about the preventative measures, they should consider reviewing their decision.

“It’s very important to put our health first.  This is the same reason I have   vaccinated and I was hoping that fans would be allowed back in stadiums. I am still positive that government will have a change of heart and allow fans back in the near future,” she said. Reached for comment, Communication Officer in the Ministry of Sports, Culture and Youth Affairs Sibongiseni Zondi, in his short-as-a-sneeze response said; “These decisions are based on health advice. We continue to encourage the sporting industry to abide by all laid down regulations and precautions and get vaccinated.”

Meanwhile, Eswatini Football Association (EFA) Communications and   Marketing Officer Muzi Radebe shared similar sentiments with Zondi. “What is key here is that fans should keep on vaccinating. We cannot alter government’s decision, their decisions are based on health experts’ advice,” he said.

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