Covid-19: Meet the task team that carries the hopes of South African football

Football is still suspended in South Africa as the country is under lockdown in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. 

The South African government has introduced five lockdown levels to at least try and keep the economy afloat, with Level 5 the strictest.

Now, with the country still on Level 4, no football is allowed and both the South African Football Association (Safa) and the Premier Soccer League (PSL) have resolved to form a six-member task team that will deal with all the risks and measures involved for the possible return of top-flight football this season. 

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The task team has 14 days to report back to the Joint Liason Committee who will then make submissions to the government for a final decision.  

Who are the six members of the task team?  

Bafana Bafana team doctor Thulani Ngwenya
Bafana Bafana team doctor Thulani Ngwenya

Dr Thulani Ngwenya - Safa's Chief Medical Officer   

Ngwenya was born in KaNyamazane, Mpumalanga 36 years ago, and like the majority of young boys, he played amateur football and later attracted interested from the Orlando Pirates development team. 

However, his dream had always been sports medicine - and he pursued this dream and successfully completed his Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery degree with the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN). 

Ngwenya did and completed his Master's Degree at the University of Pretoria.

His first involvement with the national team dates back to 2012 with the South African women’s Under-17 team, Basetsane, following a recommendation by doctor Desmond Lamola, who worked as the national team U20 doctor.   

He was appointed Bafana Bafana's team doctor soon after the appointment of Shakes Mashaba as head coach in 2014. 

In 2015, Ngwenya landed the job as Safa's chief medical officer when he attended to Danny Jordaan who fell ill during Bafana's Nelson Mandela Challenge clash with Cote d'Ivoire in Mbombela. At the time, he was still studying towards his Master's Degree.  

Apart from being a priest, Ngwenya also runs Sports Medicine Africa Clinic, a company he co-founded with Dr Jerome Mampane, Dr Crosley Mulungwa, Dr Mushi Makhethi. 

Advocate Tebogo Motlanthe - Safa's Acting CEO

Motlanthe earned his LLB law degree from the University of Venda for Science and Technology in 2008.

He has served as Safa’s legal officer from 2011.

While still working for Safa, Motlanthe enrolled with Wits Business School for the Sport Management qualification which he obtained in 2013.

Mato Madlala - PSL Acting CEO

Madlala was born into a football family, and she rose to prominence in 1996 when she and her late brother Rocky became professional football owners and administrators. 

The pair bought Second Division club Ntokozo FC and changed its name to Lamontville Golden Arrows. 

It took the Madlala family four years to win promotion to the PSL with Mato instrumental in the club's success. 

In November 2015, Mato was appointed acting CEO of the PSL, a position she still holds. 

Dr Lervasen Pillay - PSL Head of Medical 

Pillay is a qualified Sports Physician and Travel Medicine Physician. He qualified at the University of Pretoria in 2000. After an internship at Baragwanath Hospital and Community service in Matlala, he began pursuing a career in musculoskeletal medicine.

While pursuing a career in Sports Medicine, Pillay ran a casualty unit in Kempton Park. 

Between 2008 and 2017, Pillay was head of the medical department at Bidvest Wits. He has also worked as a Doping Control Officer during the Fifa Confederations Cup in 2009. 

Pillay holds a number of positions, including being Mediworx owner; a company focusing on sports and active patients with musculoskeletal conditions. 

He is also a medical consultant for a number of PSL clubs and an Extra-Ordinary Lecturer at the University of Pretoria, Section Sports Medicine since 2010. 

Poobalan Govindasamy - Safa NEC Member 

Govindasamy was born on February 10, 1958, in Pietermaritzburg. He studied at the University of Durban Westville, the University of Natal in Pietermaritzburg and the University of Natal in Durban. 

He holds qualifications in BA Law, LLB and a certificate in Constitutional Litigation. 

Govindasamy has been working for Safa since 1994 in different portfolios, including being the National Executive Member, Disciplinary Committee Member, Appeal Committee Member,  Legal & Constitutional Committee Member, Legal & Constitutional Committee Chairperson, Examinations Committee Member, Ethics Protocol Fair Play & Security Committee Chairperson among others. 

He is also the president of the South African Indoor Football Association (Saifa), the position he has been holding since 2002. 

The 62-year-old was the chairman of the Local Organising Committee of the Africa Cup of Nations which was held in South Africa in 2013.  

Govindasamy was a member of the Legal Affairs & Player Status Committee for Caf between 2013 and 2016. 

He is Caf's Club Licensing Instructor, the position he has been holding since 2013.     

Jose Ferreira - PSL Exco Member 

Ferreira studied Law at the University of Witwatersrand (Wits) between 1987 and 1992, and majored in International Relations. 

He worked for Rappeport Fanaroff Attorneys for six years between 1991 and 1997. His first involvement with football was in 1994 when he was appointed as Head of Legal Affairs at the PSL and he was also the league's Prosecutor for the Disciplinary Committee until 2002

Ferreira then worked as Head of Legal Affairs for Mamelodi Sundowns for two years between 2002 and 2004.

In 2004, he assumed the role of acting chief executive officer at Sundowns for three years until he left to join SuperSport United in the same capacity in 2007. 

He left Matsatsantsa for Bidvest Wits in 2012 to hold the same position. 

Ferreira became a member of the PSL executive committee in 2016, and two years later, he became a member of the executive committee at Safa. 

What is the PSL saying about the return of football? 

PSL Chairman Dr Irvin Khoza, March 2020
PSL Chairman Dr Irvin Khoza, March 2020

The PSL is pushing for the completion of the current season across the board, hence endless meetings with its members and the government on the matter.

Despite already suspending the matches, the PSL believes every team should play the full matches (30), and they are of the view that the remaining matches can be played behind closed doors. 

What the league is avoiding is to declare the season null and void without crowning league champions because that would negatively impact their relationship with the sponsors. 

Also, they are reluctant to hand the trophy over to log leaders Kaizer Chiefs because of their slim lead at the top - other teams such as Mamelodi Sundowns still have a chance to catch and overtake the Soweto giants. 

In addition, handing the trophy over to Amakhosi will not answer the issue of who gets relegated - and the league is trying to avoid possible court cases with teams in the bottom half of the table - especially those who in the relegation zone because like Sundowns, they also feel they have a chance to survive. 

With the PSL and other countries around the world given until July 31 to complete the season, the league is pushing for the resumption of the season as soon as possible and not wait for either Level 3 or Level 2 of the lockdown.  

What is Safa saying about the return of football? 

Danny Jordaan South Africa 28052015
Danny Jordaan South Africa 28052015

Safa is not against the idea of playing football behind closed doors but their only concern is the safety of players and officials. 

The country's FA has maintained that football should only return if the government deems it safe to, and they have made it clear that the consideration can be made when the country moves to Level 1 of the lockdown. 

Last week's meeting ironed out differences between the PSL and Safa after Sports Minister Nathi Mthethwa's plea for the two bodies to work together and have one voice.

Moreover, Safa doesn't think it would be wise to hand the league trophy to Chiefs with president Danny Jordaan recently saying fans would go crazy and break government's regulations by taking their celebrations to the streets. 

As things stand, Safa feels the best way to deal with this conundrum is to wait for the green light from the government. 

What are the fans saying? 

Kaizer Chiefs & Orlando Pirates fans, October 2018
Kaizer Chiefs & Orlando Pirates fans, October 2018

The country is divided on what should happen to the current season.

Some fans are calling for it to be cancelled, Chiefs be declared champions and promote the two top teams from the NFD, while others strongly believe the PSL should follow in the footsteps of Eredivisie where there are no league winners or relegation. 

On the other hand, there are those who think the PSL should play the season out to its natural conclusion.

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