Chippa player Nsabiyumva distressed by Burundi's decision to continue playing in the face of Covid-19

Frédéric Nsabiyumva in action for Burundi in June 2019 at the Africa Cup of Nations during a match against Nigeria at the Alexandria Stadium, in Alexandria in Egypt.
Frédéric Nsabiyumva in action for Burundi in June 2019 at the Africa Cup of Nations during a match against Nigeria at the Alexandria Stadium, in Alexandria in Egypt.
Image: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

Chippa United defender Frédéric Nsabiyumva is disappointed with the Burundi football federation’s decision to continue with the league season in his home country in the face of the threat of the coronavirus pandemic.

The tiny east African nation is one of only four countries in the world where formal league football continues after the Football Federation of Burundi on Sunday resolved to press ahead with the season following a meeting of its member clubs.

The Burundian football bosses took the decision despite the country confirming its first two cases of Covid-19 on Friday‚ which rose to three by Sunday.

"After consultation with Public Health Minister Thaddeus Ndikumana‚ the general assembly decided that the first and second division championships should continue to be played while observing the appropriate hygiene measures‚" the Football Federation of Burundi said in a statement after Sunday’s meeting to discuss whether to proceed with the season or not.

The tough tackling Nsabiyumva expressed his unhappiness with the decision and told TimesLIVE from Port Elizabeth‚ in the Eastern Cape‚ that nothing should be left to chance.

“To be honest‚ for me I don't think it is a good idea (to continue with the season).

"I’m very disappointed‚” said the 24-year-old former Jomo Cosmos captain‚ who now plays for Port Elizabeth-based Chippa in the Premier Soccer League.

“You know this virus has been killing people all over the world. So I think they could have just stopped. It is not good for the health of the players and everyone else.

“You don’t have to take chances while there are people in the country who are already infected with the virus.”

Nsabiyumva‚ who arrived in South Africa as an 18 year old to join Cosmos in 2014‚ said he was shocked to learn of the decision as he viewed Sunday’s meeting of the clubs in the premier and second division as a mere formality.

“Most of the leagues‚ if not all the leagues‚ in the world have stopped playing.

"I don’t see how they can keep on playing while the world has stopped playing‚” said the defender who has represented his country at senior men’s national team on 17 occations since making his debut in 2013.

The Chippa star called on his country to enforce a lockdown and impose a ban on large gatherings to try and contain the virus spreading to more people in Burundi.

“We have seen that it all started like this in other countries where it is two cases today‚ and then tomorrow the number has increased significantly.

“It is going to be tens and then hundreds and thousands. This thing is dangerous‚” Nsabiyumva cautioned.

The decision to continue football in Burundi appears to be motivated by the fact that there are only three rounds left to complete the league season.

“I think that is the other thing also but it is still risky because it will expose the people to the risk of contracting the virus and spreading it‚ said Nsabiyumva.

Nsabiyumva is experiencing first-hand the impact of coronavirus as he‚ like the rest of South Africa‚ is under lockdown along with his Chilli Boys teammates in Port Elizabeth.

While under lockdown‚ with truncated training‚ Nsabiyumva said head coach Rulani Mokwena and his technical team gave the players a programme to adhere to.

“There is a programme the club gave us‚ there are two programmes that we are following right now.

"Every player is busy with that programme and everyday we have to report on what we were doing throughout the day‚” he said.

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