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Vassallo unconcerned by COVID-19 situation but appeals for caution

The 2020-21 BOV Premier League returns this week after the Yuletide recess with the threat posed by COVID-19 cases still hovering over its head.

In the last week or so, the Malta Football Association had to contend with a spike of COVID-19 cases among several top-flight clubs.

Gudja United and Valletta FC had a cluster of cases that forced the health authorities to send both first-team squads into a mandatory quarantine, leaving no option to the Malta Football Association but to postpone their upcoming league fixtures this week.

In fact, Gudja United were due to face Hibernians today and Gżira United on Saturday while Valletta were penned to face their old time rivals Ħamrun Spartans tonight and Sliema Wanderers on Saturday but these fixtures will now be rescheduled to a later date.

Senglea Athletic, Floriana and Lija Athletic were three other clubs who had isolated COVID-19 cases and so far, these cases didn’t affect either team’s preparations for this week’s fixtures.

After the Christmas festivities it’s more than logical that there are growing fears that more cases could emerge in the next few days but MFA president Bjorn Vassallo urged for calm and said that it was imperative that every player and official continues to follow the guidelines and protocols issued by the authorities to ensure football is not affected.

“I don’t think there is any case for me to be concerned of the current situation,” the MFA president told The Times of Malta.

“At present, we have two teams from the Premier League who are observing a mandatory quarantine and one from the Challenge League so there is no room for alarm.

“One has to remember that in Malta, the football community is not isolated but is living with the rest of the society, so we are subject to have a rise in positive COVID-19 cases.

“Obviously, it’s natural that during the Christmas festivities one tends to relax a bit and, as a consequence, with the organized events the virus spreads more. My message is that everyone should remain focused as the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic is far from over.

“One has to remember that we are living the same football experience of other countries such as Italy and England where you had a number of matches that had to be postponed due to COVID-19 so there is nothing exceptional from what is happening here.”

Vassallo said that he is pleased that from the 450 matches that were originally scheduled to be played in the final quarter of 2020, all bar one, Floriana vs Tarxien Rainbows, where played as scheduled and showing the benefits of the regulations set.

“One big positive to take so far from the 2020-21 season is the fact that thanks to the regulations and protocols that we have managed to implement, all 450 matches that were scheduled to be played by the end of 2020, bar one, between Floriana and Tarxien, were held and that shows that our system is working well,” Vassallo said.

“That result was achieved thanks to the hard work of everyone at the MFA and we are now focused that we manage to host all fixtures in the second quarter of the season according to our football calendar.

Challenges ahead

“Obviously we are expecting a lot of challenges which will surely result in having matches postponed and having teams who will have a number of fixtures crammed into each other but hopefully we can successfully complete the season in the time-frame planned.”

Vassallo appealed to all stakeholders in the game to remain vigilant and keep following the regulations as he said that the virus is still with us.

“It’s important that everyone continues to respect all health restrictions and our protocol as the fight against COVID-19 is still there,” the MFA chief
said.

“The arrival of the COVID-19 vaccine is positive but the number of people who are receiving it is still very low. So, it’s important that everyone remains vigilant and show respect to the well being of everyone involved in the game.”

PROGRAMME

TODAY
HIBERNIANS STADIUM
Sirens vs Birkirkara 17.00
Balzan vs Sta Lucia 21.00

TOMORROW
CENTENARY STADIUM
Gżira Utd vs Senglea 17.00
Sliema W. vs Mosta 21.00

THURSDAY
CENTENARY STADIUM
Żejtun C. vs Tarxien R. 17.00
Floriana vs Lija Athletic 21.00

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