Coronavirus renders football “powerless” in Burkina Faso

Sandrine Zougouri – AIPS Young Reporter – Burkina Faso

OUAGADOUGOU, March 18, 2020 – The sports environment is being heavily tested by the coronavirus and Burkina Faso is not an exception. The COVID-19 continues to dictate its law at all levels and even more sports. Internationally as well as in Burkina Faso, sport is being hit hard by the pandemic.

Even though the national first division championship and the Faso cup were suspended long before the disease appeared in Burkina Faso, to allow local football players to prepare for the African Nations Championship (CHAN) in Cameroon, the professional football league is still on its guard, according to the league’s interim general secretary Abdoul Karim Ouedraogo. “The instructions given by the government just after the outbreak of the disease in Burkina Faso banning gatherings or demonstrations will be respected,” he said.

A measure that was followed to the letter in Burkina Faso, at a friendly match between the local Stallions of Burkina and the Hawks of Togo played behind closed doors at the “August 4” stadium on March 15, 2020 in Ouagadougou.

According to the league General Secretary, the last six match days of the championship and the cup of Faso may be played behind closed doors incase COVID-19 will still be in Burkina Faso. Mr Ouedraogo admits that the closed-door system will be affecting finance of football as fans play a big financial role. “No fans, the coffers are paralyzed”, he said.

However, if the league thinks that the closed-door matches will affect finances, the assistant coach of the majestic sports club Abdoulaye Carama says the opposite. For the coach, a match being played with or without fans doesn’t make a lot of difference because there is often not a lot of attendance at stadiums during the championship. According to him, football matches in Burkina has always been played without a big crowd, so with this pandemic, things remain unchanged.

From the player’s point of view, matches behind closed doors do not promote good performance. “Most of the public are jubilant, they encourage the players to work hard for the victory. But when the stadium is empty, it’s like a training session, so the players don’t make any effort,” Aimé Roger Sirima, captain of the Armed Forces Sports Union said. “But with COVID-19, football is powerless, so we’re going to strictly respect the protection methods to prevent its spread,” he added. According to the captain, it is true that football is a unifying factor, but it is also a framework for inculcating social values. The captain of the local team, Aboubacar Sawadogo, also said that the behind closed doors decision will not motivate people, especially if you play at home.

In Burkina Faso, the disease slows down sports activities. It is important to remember that COVID-19 does not only affect football, but other disciplines as well. A press release from the Ministry of Sports and Leisure dated March 16 banned all sporting event that brings together attendance. Only sporting activities taking place in confined spaces are permitted. As for the professional football league, it is readjusting the competition calendar to prevent teams from being in a long period of lethargy.

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