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Let’s beat this virus and look to better days ahead by following right protocols

We live in unprecedented times!


Never has humanity – let along the game of football – been faced with the challenge that now faces us – trying to overcome the challenges presented by the Corona Virus – or Covid 19 to give it its’ more scientific name.The country – like so many others globally – has gone into virtual lock-down and its consequences have impacted on all of us – in our work, in our lifestyle and in our pastimes. 

Events may well overtake the contents of this story but the desire is to highlight the risks involved in the spread of the virus, what you can do to reduce the odds of contraction and transmission and then to suggest creative ways for players to fill their spare time and perhaps even improve their technique.


The health of the nation is more important that the playing of games and while we all miss the day to day involvement, we should all understand that the decisions being taken – are being done so with the best interests of every single person in the country. 


For the game of association football the decision of th Football Association of Ireland  last  Thursday was unequivocal in its implications.


It read: 

The Football Association of Ireland announces the cessation of all football under its jurisdiction until March 29 inclusive, and with immediate effect following directives from Government, the Department of Health and UEFA. 

The FAI made this decision after a meeting in Dublin today with Government, the Department of Health and stakeholders from other national sporting bodies.

The decision has been taken in light of the growing threat posed by the COVID-19 outbreak and in the best interests of our players, coaches, volunteers, supporters and staff. This decision will be monitored on an ongoing basis.

The FAI again met with representatives from the National League Executive Committee and the Professional Footballer’s Association of Ireland today, and continues to work with both bodies to help our clubs and players through this difficult time.

The FAI remains in communication with the Department of Health and UEFA on COVID-19 and will continue to follow all government guidelines.  

Simple in in message but with huge implications for everyone involved from grassroots up to the SSE Airtiricity League. But the decisions are based on scientific advice and delivered from Government agencies and their affiliates. March 29th is a fortnight away and without wanting to sound defeatist, that looks like an extremely conservative  estimate given the rate of the virus’ global spread. Simply said, it’s not going to put back in it’s box in a fortnight’s time!. 


Even the fabled SFAI Kennedy Cup schedule must now be in doubt – and not just for footballing reasons. The SFAI statement of last Thursday reads: 

Thursday 12th March 2020

STATEMENT: Schoolboys Football Association of Ireland Update Regarding Coronavirus (Covid-19) and schoolboy football activities

Dear Secretary,

Further to confirmation today that all schools across the country will close until at least March 29th 2020, and as the situation with Covid-19 is developing rapidly, the SFAI has taken the following decision.

The Schoolboys Football Association of Ireland is instructing all SFAI affiliated schoolboy leagues to suspend all football activities with immediate effect until further notice.

We understand the decision will bring with it disruption to leagues, clubs, coaches and players, but in these extraordinary times, there is a need to act now.

Further communications will issue in due course, but for now, please follow the advice of the HSE and the Government when it comes to further protective measures.

Regards,

Simon Walsh

SFAI Administrator

The SFAI Kennedy Cup is  scheduled to be held from June 9 to 13 at the University of Limerick.  

That’s just 86 day away and indications are that the spread of the virus is still well short of peaking. That will ensure that little or no football will be played and informd sources are now suggestng that schools could be closed until next September! But so too are Third Level institutions – including University of Limerick – the host for the tournament and also where players and coaches are billeted for the duration of the tournament. 

If the Third Level academic year is delayed, the availability of accommodation during the scheduled period of the Kennedy Cup is now seriously compromised – and the most positive optimist would struggle to see the event going ahead as planned. 

To protect and ensure the health of the population is an absolute priority. With new cases jumping from between 30 to 40 cases a day, the advance of the virus is unrelenting and regardless of ability, status or position, it is indiscriminate in its’ selection and for these reasons alone, the game of football must row in behind every decision made by the Government, the Department of Health and the World Health Organisation.


Decisions on how the season will ultimately play out is difficult to  determine at this early stage, but we should wait until the situation becomes clearer. Disrupted it will certainly be, but let’s hope we will receive positive news about the virus being tackled and the rate of its spread being brought under control. We hope for sooner rather than later!


Many leagues are approaching the business end of the season and leagues and cups are at advanced stages. Parking them is what is required before any definitive rescheduling can be put in place. 


The likes of the Amateur Football League has just started and much easier to park in its’ initial stages while on the international stage it looks as if Euro 2020 will be shelved on Tuesday or Wednesday and rescheduled for 2021.


While competition, training and gatherings are now forbidden, there is still many things that players can engage in to keep fit and to improve their skills and technique. 


Here, we are going to suggest an idea or two but we also invite clubs, leagues and association to come forward with positive suggestions as to how to stay safe while at the same time filling your time productively. 


Working together we can crack this problem and while ‘social distancing’ is now a popular everyday phrase, it is an important tactic in helping to break the stranglehold of the virus – a creative idea or two is what is called for, so get those juices flowing!. 


The distribution of footballs to individual players (if they don’t already have a ball) so players can practice individually or with a friend. What’s important is that the ‘group’ is  small and that agreed protocols are followed. 


Managers and coaches can email drills and suggested training routines to allow players to follow a given schedule. Self isolation does not mean you can’t be still active, so plan to use the time you have productively.


It should be remembered at present – but sadly it might change – that there is no ban or outdoor activity, so walking, jogging, running and cycling are pursuits that will help keep your fitness levels up. 

Dave Fitzsimons: ISRS Dublin Branch chairman

Dave Fitzsimons, Chairman of the Dublin Branch of the Irish Soccer Referees Society has asked all members to abide by government issued guidelines, not to officiate at any ‘requested’ friendly games and to train along or with only one or two colleagues. 


“We need our members to stay healthy and we would encourage them to maintain their fitness levels but also to respect social distancing and not to ‘group train’  If any member is suffering from an underlying healthy condition we ask them to self isolate and be respectful of not visiting family members of friends  – particularly those of and older age profile.”


So, according to the World Health Organisation:

  How COVID-19 spreads 
When someone who has COVID-19 coughs or exhales they release droplets of infected fluid. Most of these droplets fall on nearby surfaces and objects – such as desks, tables or telephones. People could catch COVID-19 by touching contaminated surfaces or objects – and then touching their eyes, nose or mouth. If they are standing within one meter of a person with COVID-19 they can catch it by breathing in droplets coughed out or exhaled by them. In other words, COVID-19 spreads in a similar way to flu.

Most persons infected with COVID-19 experience mild symptoms and recover. However, some go on to experience more serious illness and may require hospital care. Risk of serious illness rises with age: people over 40 seem to be more vulnerable than those under 40. People with weakened immune systems and people with conditions such as diabetes, heart and lung disease are also more vulnerable to serious illness.

Does the new coronavirus affect older people, or are younger people also susceptible?

People of all ages can be infected by the new coronavirus (2019-nCoV). Older people, and people with pre-existing medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease) appear to be more vulnerable to becoming severely ill with the virus. 

WHO advises people of all ages to take steps to protect themselves from the virus, for example by following good hand hygiene and good respiratory hygiene.

THE Department of Health has issued the following guidelines: 

To protect yourself:

  • wash your hands frequently with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand rub if your hands are not visibly dirty
  • practice good respiratory hygiene, that is, when coughing and sneezing, cover your mouth and nose with flexed elbow or tissue – discard tissue immediately into a closed bin and clean your hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water
  • maintain social distancing, that is, leave at least 1 metre (3 feet) distance between yourself and other people, particularly those who are coughing, sneezing and have a fever
  • avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth – if you touch your eyes, nose or mouth with your contaminated hands, you can transfer the virus from the surface to yourself
PADDY DEMPSEY: DDSL Chairman

Paddy Dempsey, DDSL Chairman, was happy to encourage players to work on their skills and practice – in their back garden if need be – perhaps with a friend – and maintain their fitness levels. 


“The situation is very fluid. We are in unchartered territory here but there is an opportunity for players to work on their individual skills and  technique – juggling, keepy-uppiers. Why not? “

“It’s frustrating for everyone not being able to meet up with your team mates but coaches and managers could plan out drill sheets and small training schedules,” said Dempsey who revealed that the league is operating via video conferencing rather than meeting at the league’s Abbotstown base.

For people working with the general public who are feeling well and do not have respiratory symptoms (for example, cough, fever or chills, shortness of breath), facemasks are not recommended. There is no evidence that using masks in this setting is of any benefit to people who are not sick.

The most important action we can take to protect ourselves from COVID-19 (Coronavirus) is regular hand-washing and good respiratory hygiene.

Football will survive, the most important thing is that so do all of us!

Be safe and follow all those HSE and Government guideines. Your lives depend on it!

DO you have a POSITIVE suggestion for players to occupy themselves during this hiatus from the competitive side of the game? I there something that your league or club has adopted as a result of the threat of Covid-19.

We’d like to hear from you with your positive ideas and how you can help improve the player’s lot during these. Send your ideas to socstriker@gmail.com.

Have you any videos of creative ideas to share with the football community? Send them to the same email address and use the wetransfer platform. (www.wetransfer.com)

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