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Burundi: football stops, between coronavirus and elections

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RFI 20 APR 2020

For the first time in 2020, there was neither the Burundi Football Championship nor the National Cup for an entire week. The Federation (FFB) announced on April 12 a reorganization of the calendar, invoking the use of stadiums for the future Burundian general elections. Concordant sources assure, however, that this bracketing is due to the pandemic of new coronavirus.PUBLICITY

It was the last country in Africa where football competitions continued to take place, despite the global pandemic of new coronavirus. For the first time in 2020, however, there was neither a championship (Primus League) nor a national cup (President’s Cup in Burundi), for an entire week.

It is not a big surprise, however. On April 12, the Burundi Football Federation (FFB) announced a new schedule for its competitions. Officially so that the stadiums are available for the general elections to be held in the country in May.

The FFB declared that it was satisfied with the progress of its competitions, despite the fact that the Elite Championship was initially due to end on April 18. She assured that the last three days of Primus League and the semi-finals, as well as the final of the President’s Cup of the Republic, could be held before the end of the season, set for May 30.

No official announcement

However, several sources point out that this “redevelopment” is in fact a parenthesis of the football, because of the Covid-19.

 A major player in Burundian football explained to RFI that there would be no matches in the coming weeks, but that no official announcement would be made on this subject.

Is this turnaround due to the health situation in Burundi or to external pressures? FIFPro, the international players’ union, claims that CAF contacted the FFB about the coronavirus. At Confederation, however, it is assured that this is not the case and that this decision comes from Burundians. The same goes for the International Federation (FIFA) where it is pointed out that the decision to stop came after the first proven cases of Covid-19.

A sensible subject

The subject remains obviously sensitive. To stop playing football because of the Covid-19 would be to recognize that there is a significant health risk in the land of “Hirondelles”, a few weeks before the general elections. On April 13, local authorities announced the first death related to the virus. But officially the situation is still under control . Less than ten positive cases have been identified in Burundi, according to a recent count by the Ministry of Health.

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