Caf medical official praises the PSL's bio-bubble plan that saw 2019-20 season completed

A file photo of PSL Chairman Dr Irvin Khoza all smiles during a PSL media briefing.
A file photo of PSL Chairman Dr Irvin Khoza all smiles during a PSL media briefing.
Image: Sydney Mahlangu/ BackpagePix

The bio-bubble that allowed the Premier Soccer League (PSL) to complete its 2019-20 season has received high praise from a Confederation of African Football (Caf) medical official.

Caf medical committee member Dr Yacine Zerguini heaped praise on the PSL for successfully implementing a biologically safe environment (BSE) to complete the season‚ where Mamelodi Sundowns pipped Kaizer Chiefs to the title on the final day on September 5.

After attaining “La Decima” of 10 PSL championships‚ Downs then wrapped up a treble – having won the Telkom Knockout in December – by beating Bloemfeontein Celtic 1-0 in the Nedbank Cup final on September 5.

Such historical statistics would have been confined to oblivion had the PSL – in an at times painful process that had to be supervised by the SA Football Association (Safa)‚ for the most part‚ though not always‚ putting aside the often bitter politics between the two – not managed to formulate the BSE plan.

Zerguini‚ chairman of Fifa’s Medical Centre of Excellence in Algiers in his native Algeria‚ said Caf had taken notice of South Africa’s success story‚ where the 16 Premier Division and 16 GladAfrica Championship (First Division) teams completed the season in the Gauteng BSE.

“We have particularly observed the examples in different leagues. We have observed the examples in South Africa‚ in Morocco‚ in Tunisia and also Egypt‚ who have set good examples‚” Zerguini said.

“For me‚ the most elaborate example is in South Africa – perhaps because they have a tradition of direct links between sports medicine and academic world and using these expertises.

“The combination of these is probably the solution‚ for us to ask those who know and have understanding to help and come up with solutions.”

What made the PSL’s achievement – with government oversight‚ of course‚ too – more impressive was that the BSE was necessitated by soaring Covid-19 cases‚ taking South Africa to the fifth-highest in the world around the time the plan was near implementation.

This meant‚ without large-scale domestic travel available‚ and to maximise safety‚ the 32 Premiership and GladAfrica Championship teams had to come to a single venue – chosen as Gauteng – to complete the season in a BSE.

Once teams and all officials and staff were housed in the BSE’s hotels‚ they could not leave the bubble‚ travelling only to the sanitised training venues and stadiums‚ and back.

No unauthorised personnel could enter the BSE.

Three weeks before entering the BSE clubs had returned to training at their home venues only after a first round of Covid-19 testing. Positive cases were sent home to self-quarantine and recover.

Then‚ before entering the BSE‚ a second round of Covid-19 testing was conducted.

In Europe‚ seasons were completed without a BSE – with matches played at the clubs’ home venues – because coronavirus cases‚ and those countries’ lockdown levels in response‚ had dropped significantly by the time those competitions returned to play.

PODCAST | Rugby returns and magical soccer ahead