Coronavirus: Sports Return Uncertain As PTF Boss Takes Jibe At NPFL

SGF Boss Mustapha

Even as the government sets out guidelines for reopening the country amidst the COVID-19 pandemic it appears there are no plans for resuming sporting activities anytime soon going by the remarks of chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha.

The country recently eased lockdown restrictions and announced an imminent end to interstate travel leading to widespread speculation that a resumption of sporting activities under strict measures was on the cards.

Sporting activities in the country including football have been suspended since March 18 leading to the postponement of the Edo 2020 National Sports Festival.

League Management Company chairman Shehu Dikko had revealed that plans are afoot to ensure the completion of the 2019-20 season with a number of options being considered.

Sports Minister Sunday Dare also announced a commitment to staging the National Sports Festival as soon as possible.

These plans and projections appear to be moot after Mustapha shot down any suggestions of a swift return of sports at the PTF’s daily media briefing on Thursday in Abuja.

“I’m not sure we are excited about opening sporting activities in our country, particularly soccer (football), which attracts large crowds,” Mustapha said in response to a question about plans for resuming sports.

“If our guidelines say large gatherings are banned and not to exceed 20 persons except places of work, I don’t see the excitement if we allow soccer to return to an empty stadium.”

Mustapha then appeared to take a subtle jibe at the NPFL by suggesting that unlike several European leagues which have returned or have announced definite resumption dates, the Nigeria Professional Football League has no business case for resuming.

“A lot of European countries where these games have started are big businesses and they are doing it carefully and gradually.

“We are not excited about allowing sports to return, we will get there, but for now, we are concerned with the few activities allowed to reopen.

We will continue to review the situation, know how we are faring, study the situation and know what next to do based on data, science and peculiarity of our environment.”