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  • Writer's pictureCharles Baloyi

Fans could be allowed to watch SA Senior Track & Field Championships at new Pilditch Stadium

The SA Senior Track and Field Championships at Pilditch Stadium in Tshwane next month could have fans if sports minister Nathi Mthethwa approves Athletics South Africa (ASA)’s proposal. The sports minister is calling on sports federations to submit their proposals for the possible return of fans to sports stadia around the country. Detailed in ASA's submission to the national Department of Sports, Arts, Culture and Recreation must be an explanation of how the federation will make sure that their events don't contribute to the spread of the Coronavirus. If their reasons and safety measures meet the demands of the minister's office, their wishes to have fans back at the stadium could be granted.

“There will be fans if there are no restrictions it is simple as that. The sports bodies know that it is up to them to make a case. Last year when we returned to play, they made a case. The sports federations must write to us and explain how they they going to stop sport from being a super-spreader that is what they should do. We are waiting for them to do that," Mthethwa told #TheTopRunner. "If they don't put across a clear, proven case, then we can't be reckless about that and open for fans to return. They need to tell us that we want fans to go back and this is how we are going to ensure that our event is not going to be a super-spreader," explained Mthethwa.

ASA Boss Aleck Skhosana speaks to the media ahead of the 2019 Sizwe Medical Fund SA Senior Track & Field Championships. He will be hoping for this year's competition to have some fans. Photo CRedit: ASA Media.

ASA boss Aleck Skhosana indicated his willingness to submit their proposal to the office of the minister. “We’ve always wanted to have fans back at the stadiums. It is not only ASA but other sporting codes as well. However, we will be guided by the rules and regulations of Covid-19. For us what is critical is the number of athletes that will compete at the SA championships. Maybe if they increase the participation number from 250 it would make our proposal much easier," said Skhosana. This comes after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced last night that South Africa would remain at level 1 of the lockdown for the Easter Weekend allowing many South Africans to observe their religious holidays in congregations of no more than 250 people indoors and 500 outdoors.

The former SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) vice-president, said the fans make the sport what it is. “We need the fans back at the stadiums there is no doubt about it. The sooner we get them back at the stadiums the better. Hopefully, the minister would increase the number from 250 to 300 or 400," said Skhosana. Provincial championships took place in Kwa-Zulu Natal, Central Gauteng, and Gauteng North last weekend which Skhosana described as abnormal because of the restrictions on fans at the various stadia around the country.

Grass embankments are empty as Irvette van Zyl wins the 5 000m at the Boksburg Stadium. Fans have not been permitted to sit on the grass banks and support their athletes. Photo Credit: CGA.

“Track and Field events are back, but it's abnormal for me. It is the first abnormal competition because of the absence of parents, fans and athletes cannot applaud their fellow athletes in the starting line. As soon as you are done with your event, you have to leave the stadium. It is a mixed feeling for me. As an athlete, it is great to watch how other athletes perform but due to the limited numbers allowed in the stadium, we force them to vacate the stadium straight after their events," Skhosana added.

Lanky long jumper Zinzi Xulu and middle-distance sensation Lebo Phalula said having fans at the stadium makes a big difference to their performance. “As a triple and long jumper, the fans give you that push with the clap of hands before your jumps. I miss that. I am still battling to perform without the fans. The claps get you into the sand-pit in style,” said Xulu as Phalula echoed her sentiments. “When you run the 5000m and 10 000m races it gives you that extra push when you hear cheers in the stands. I miss that,” said Phalula. The 2021 ASA Senior Track and Field Championships are scheduled to take place from 16-18 April 2021.

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