The South African student sporting calendar has fallen into disarray due to the coronavirus outbreak, but Madibaz director of sport Yoliswa Lumka says they are doing all they can to handle the situation positively.
With the country under a 21-day lockdown a multitude of events, leagues and competitions have been cancelled or postponed, upsetting the plans of many institutions, student sportsmen and women.
Lumka said it was a trying time for everyone, but that they understood the seriousness of the situation and were sensitive to complying with the university and government regulations. The lockdown is due to end on April 16.
“Our primary role as sport administrators is to provide a safe, enabling environment for our student-athletes to participate in,” she said. “We will follow the guidelines as set by our principals for as long as possible to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our students and staff.
“The most important message is for all of our student-athletes, staff and officials to stay safe and healthy, to look after themselves and their families at this time,” she said.
One of the biggest impacts caused by Covid-19, she added, was the postponement of the Olympic Games in Tokyo. The dates have been moved by 12 months and they will now take place from July 23 to August 8 next year.
“The postponement of the Olympics is huge and it is something that has never happened before, besides three previous cancellations [due to world events].
“The new dates for the Olympics and Paralympics could affect the World Student Games in 2021 as they come soon after the Tokyo Games. FISU recently updated the [World Student Games] dates to August 18-29 next year.
“In addition, this year’s university sport calendar, which is congested as it is, has been put into disarray.
“There is a possibility that some events will not be able to take place and that unfortunately will affect student-athletes who are finishing their studies this year. They will not be able to participate if events are moved to next year.”
Lumka added that various events were under discussion as to the viability of them taking place this year.
“When institutions re-open, priority will be to stabilise and catch-up on the academic programmes,” she said.
“There are ongoing talks about the CUCSA [Confederation of University and Colleges Sports Associations] Games scheduled in Maseru, Lesotho from July 27 to August 3 and a decision is due later this week.
“In addition, the national executive committee of USSA [University Sport South Africa] will convene on April 20 to assess the status of these tournaments and to provide a plan on the way forward.”
The USSA winter national championships traditionally take place in the first week of July.
The Madibaz sports head said she felt for the student-athletes affected by Covid-19.
“The impact of the coronavirus on sport worldwide is catastrophic and it is the same for Madibaz,” said Lumka.
“A number of our students were due to participate at international competitions, such as Charlize van Zyl [chess] and Lwazi Mapitiza [judo].
“Also, the Varsity Shield rugby was a big one for us and, having done well, we were looking forward to a strong home finish in the competition.
“We still sit on top of the combined 2019-2020 log, but we are awaiting the official announcement on our promotion back to Varsity Cup.
“With all programmes on hold it is up to the individual athletes wherever they are to keep themselves healthy and fit. Coaches and managers are in constant contact with them to discuss their training and studies.”