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ASA say government’s failure to relax restrictions is a slap in the face

The Aquatic Sports Association of Malta joined the Malta Football Association in showing their disappointment at the government’s decision of not relaxing COVID-19 restrictions on organised sport, describing the decision as a slap in the face of athletes.

The ASA was forced to bring to a halt the Winter League last month after ban on all organised sport was issued by the authorities following a rise in COVID-19 cases.

This week, the local governing body of aquatic sport issued a statement along with the MFA to appeal to the authorities to a gradual return of sports competitions, but their appeal seems to have fallen into deaf ears as restrictions remained in place.

“Almost one year later, organised sport has once again been put on the back burner,” the ASA said.

“During the Press Conference held earlier this morning, the government announced the gradual easing of certain restrictions but unfortunately no date for the resumption of organised sport was given. This leaves all athletes, clubs and associations in limbo…. as usual!

“The pie chart issued by the Public Health Authorities shows that sport activities accounted for the lowest number of COVID-19 positive cases. This, in itself, is proof enough that the associations, clubs and athletes acted very responsibly throughout the past months when Malta was witnessing triple figure positive cases daily.

“It seems that these efforts were all in vain and have been disregarded and indeed ignored, by whoever is responsible for taking decisions in this country.

“The decision taken by the government and the public health authorities not to resume contact sports is a slap in the face of athletes and totally dedicated administrators, most of whom work on a voluntary basis. #

“It also goes to show that sport, in the eyes of these decisionmakers, is still at a level of PE lessons held once a week at school.”

The ASA said that elite athletes need to follow long-term training plans but the current situation has put them in a difficult situation.

 “In reality sport, involves long-term plans, strategies and training regimes designed by professional coaches,” the ASA said.

“Athletes are expected to follow such programmes, giving up on other activities. Their body is prepared gradually for a competition but unfortunately, after dedicating so many hours to training and making other sacrifices, their activities have once again been truncated with no light at the end of the tunnel.

“All these stops and starts result in unnecessary anxiety and additional injuries which further affect the mental and physical state of such athletes. They are expected to remain fit but inactive. They are expected to perform and excel despite everything. They are expected to make the nation proud.

“This is when one realises that we are merely photo ops. If an athlete breaks a record that’s an opportunity; if an athlete wins a medal overseas, that’s another opportunity; if one instals a ladder in a club pool, that is yet another opportunity. If a team wins a championship, then “Our Home Is Water” we all flock to the party and take more photos. When are we really going to be taken seriously?”

The ASA said that sports bodies do not have too many people to turn to because they are never even consulted about such decisions.

“At this point, the ASA wishes to publicly thank PS Clifton Grima and Mark Cutajar, CEO at SportMalta, for the support extended to all our clubs during 2020, which was crucial for their survival,” the ASA added.

“We also thank them for having brokered a deal with the Health Authorities whereby those national teams which have commitments in the coming months have been allowed to train under very stringent conditions.

“Nonetheless, this leaves the majority of our athletes and the clubs totally out of the picture and completely disregarded. We must now call upon both gentlemen to support our battle and demand that our grievances do not go, once again, ignored.

“We need support once again so everyone’s efforts during the past year would not have been in vain. We need time-frames for the resumption of training. We need to feel that we actually exist.”

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