Corona brings sports to its knees

Portia Mlilo

BFA face possible fine from FIFA

Botswana Football Association (BFA) could face the wrath of football’s governing body FIFA, over the cancellation of the U17 girls’ second leg World Cup Qualifiers in Morocco.

The girls were supposed to leave on Tuesday morning aboard a bus and connect at OR Tambo in Johannesburg, on their way to Rabat-Morocco.

The football association called off the trip following an instruction from the Ministry of Youth Empowerment Sport and Culture Development.

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According to a communique from the Botswana National Sports Commission (BNSC) released on Wednesday, the government took a decision to cancel all planned external travel of Botswana national teams and the hosting of any international teams until further notice.

BNSC states in the press release that the decision was taken as a precautionary measure to protect local sports persons from possible infection by the virus and to reduce its possible spread to Botswana.

When reached for a comment the Ministry’s Permanent Secretary Kago Ramokate confirmed that they sent the letter through BNSC. He said all the sports codes have been affected by the decision.

“We are talking about minors. If it was a senior national team, maybe they’d have been allowed to travel and compete. We have also stopped hosting of other countries for sports events. We are aware of the consequences but sport codes know how they will put it to their governing bodies,” said Ramokate.

Earlier this week BFA released a statement indicating that due to situations beyond their control, the Morocco trip had to be cancelled.

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Voice Sport learned that BFA’s hands were tied as they couldn’t come out clear and state that the decision to cancel the trip was taken by government.

The football governing body does not allow government interference in football matters.

The outbreak of the Corona Virus has affected sporting activities across the world, with big tournaments such as UEFA Champions League played in empty stadia.

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Due extent of the outbreak in Italy which has forced the Serie A to be played in closed doors, there’s also uncertainty over the 2020 European Championships.

Back home parents of the players of the U17 girls registered their concerns with the association after Morocco confirmed their first corona death on Tuesday.

The 89 year old woman who lived in Casablanca entered Morocco from Italy’s Bologna.

Morocco has since canceled all trips to and from Italy and banned fans from attending football matches.

The northern African state further canceled events involving foreign travelers and gatherings of more than 1,000 people as precautionary measures to avert an outbreak of the virus.

Speaking to Voice Sport on Wednesday, BFA President Maclean Letshwiti said they have since written a letter to CAF stating their reasons to cancel the trip.

He denied that government interfered with the sport, stating that the ministry was just advising on athletes travel restrictions.

Letshwiti further said there are varying reasons as to why they could not divulge why the trip was cancelled.

“Corona Virus might be one of them. The government can only advice, not stop us from participating in international games,” Letshwiti said.

The BFA President further told Voice Sport he does not know how prepared the country is to deal with the virus in comparison to other countries who still take part in international competitions.

“There are lots of issues involved. Of course we are likely to be charged for failing to honour the fixture, but we have valid reason well explained in our letter to CAF,” he said.

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