by Umaid Wasim
KARACHI: With Covid-19 cases rising in the country, it was a question of when — rather than if — the first positive case would emerge in the National Women’s Football Championship.
Eventually, it took less than a week.
The Pakistan Football Federation Normalisation Committee disclosed on Monday that a player from Karachi United had tested positive and therefore it was going to postpone all Group ‘B’ matches until players of all of the teams in first and second contact return negative tests.
United, who were due to play their third game of the group stage on Tuesday, had played Karachi Women’s FC and Higher Education Commission in their opening two games. Karachi WFC, in turn, had played Sialkot City Women’s FC.
“All teams in the first and second contact have been advised to get their squads tested,” the PFF NC said in a statement, adding that it will provide financial support to all teams for virus testing. “There will be no Group ‘B’ matches at least until test results are received.”
The 19-team championship started last week amid the backdrop of cricket’s Pakistan Super League (PSL) being postponed due to a spread of Covid-19 in its biosecure bubble.
There was no such bubble for the teams in the women’s championship and no testing was done prior to the start of the event with the PFF NC only issuing a set of protocols that needed to be followed.
FIFA, which appointed the PFF NC in September 2019,referred Dawn back to the Haroon Malik-led NC when asked if there was any guidance sought from the global football body regarding Covid protocols for holding the event.
On the eve of the championship, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) had told Dawn that the implementation of preventive measures was a matter of the PFF NC.
PFF NC technical director Dani Limones on Monday sought to clarify that the championship wasn’t being cancelled.
“Only Group ‘B’ matches will be postponed until all the players and officials that could have had any direct or indirect contact with the positive player are cleared,” Limones wrote on Twitter. “We are working intimately with the teams to sort the situation out ASAP to minimise the impact on the championship.”
With Limones claiming that the PFF NC was working on testing direct or indirect contacts with positive player, it is surprising that the country’s football governing body hasn’t yet indicated that it will be testing teams from Group ‘A’, whose teams are playing on the same stadiums and on the same days as the teams from Group ‘B’.
At times, teams from Group ‘A’ are present at the stadiums and interact with Group ‘B’ teams during the hour-long interval between matches of each group.