Lack of adequate COVID-19 testing facilities in the country may hinder the resumption of the Nigeria Professional Football League.
Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare, in an interview with Brila FM, said players and coaches of all NPFL clubs would be tested before the league could resume.
“There will be no compromise on certain things, when it comes to the health code, there will be no compromise. I can tell you, there will be no audience participation; content will have to be beamed through radio, television and other means.
“Tests will be conducted on the players and the coaches as the case may be and I don’t see us having multiple venues. We might think of centres to have all the other games.
“I don’t know what they are going to bring forward, I’m just rolling out a few guidelines that I think must guide the return of the league,” Dare said.
Checks by our correspondent however show that this might be difficult to achieve.
As at the time of filing this report, a total of 71,336 COVID-19 tests have been conducted in the country, with 11,166 confirmed cases.
There are also a total of 30 testing laboratories in the country spread across 19 states and the Federal Capital Territory, while a total of 16 states are yet to have any COVID-19 test lab.
A Doctor of Sports Medicine, who spoke with our correspondent under a condition of anonymity, doubted the ability of the LMC and NPFL clubs to run tests for players and coaches.
“If we are going to run the test, which of the tests are we going to run, is it the rapid test or the one that takes like two days to come out (Polymerase chain reaction)? You can take the test today and the player is not positive but he is going back to his neighbourhood. So, are you going to be testing them daily or are they going to be kept in an isolated place until they play the match?
“If they are not put in an isolated place, it might be difficult to ensure they comply with the social distancing rules.
“Even if we are playing behind closed doors, can they league afford to be running tests every week like it’s done in Europe,” the source said.
Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, had last week, said it cost the state between N40,000 and N50,000 to run an individual COVID-19 test.
Speaking with our correspondent, Chairman of Enyimba, Felix Anyansi-Agwu, said he believed the government would support the LMC and clubs to conduct tests.
“The minister is coming from the government perspective, all over the world, people are reacting based on government procedures to the problem, it is just about having proper engagement with stakeholders and regulatory bodies.
“It is also not of clubs to take that decision, it’s the regulatory bodies, which are the Nigeria Football Federation and the League Management Company and I know they are already liaising with the government to find the best possible solution to the situation.
“Things like that (tests for players and coaches) become an isolated case, government should also be able to help to get people tested. Even in Europe, I do not believe they go through the regular procedure, they create an avenue for the clubs to have access to it,” he told The PUNCH.
Efforts to speak with LMC Chairman, Shehu Dikko, proved abortive as he failed to pick our correspondent’s call. He also did not reply messages sent to his line as at the time of filing this report.