Three of Malta’s top sporting associations have renewed their appeal to allow the gradual return of competitive sports next week when quasi-lockdown ends.
The Aquatic Sports Association of Malta, the Malta Basketball Association and the Malta Football Association argued that the lifting of the prohibition on contact sports on 12th April is crucial for athletes and teams to resume appropriate training and to avoid any injuries.
“While the health and safety of all remain the overriding priority, athletes must be able to practice their sport while observing all applicable precautionary measures,” said ASA President Joe Caruana Curran.
Across Europe and the rest of the world, major sporting leagues continue to operate, including football and basketball, albeit under strict health regulations and bubble concepts – isolating players from contact with the outside world.
“Top-level sport is equipped to contribute towards keeping the situation under control, rather than the other way round,” said MBA President, Paul Sultana.
“So far there have been significant efforts to sustain our competitions through the application of thorough medical protocols and continuous testing,” he said.
While most organised sports have stopped completely, the Maltese national football team was given a special exemption by the Superintendent of Public Health to play its World Cup Qualifier fixtures against Russia, Slovakia and Croatia.
However, the BOV Premier League is at a standstill and failure to resume training by 12th April could mean that the league isn’t completed within the UEFA-imposed deadlines.
“Malta is the only country where all sport, including the elite level, has been stopped,” said MFA President Bjorn Vassallo.
“This is the professional level which represents the livelihood of many players and technical staff. Furthermore, this prolonged period of inactivity will impact fitness and technical levels both at club level, where our clubs will in a couple of months’ time compete on the European stage, as well as the national team, which has important international commitments in the windows of June and September,” he said.
In one week, Malta will end its quasi-lockdown, which will gradually see the easing of restrictions first imposed as a result of a spike in COVID-19 cases.
In the joint statement, all three sporting organisations emphasised that sport has consistently ranked last in terms of activities leading to clusters contributing to the spread of COVID-19.
“Sport should not suffer once more, especially when the associations involved have proved that it can be practised in a safe way,” it said.
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