Jakarta – The national COVID-19 task force has urged the Soccer Association of Indonesia (PSSI) and the country's top soccer leagues, Liga 1 and Liga 2, to weigh the risks of virus transmission prior to restarting competition.
The leagues are currently on hold due to the increasing number of coronavirus cases in the country.
"In running the leagues, we need all involved parties, from the federation to clubs and supporters, to comply with the health protocols," task force spokesman Wiku Adisasmito said in a statement on Thursday.
He said the PSSI was in the process of establishing a health protocol involving medical professionals for the leagues and had allocated a budget for swab testing during the season.
Regarding the issuance of crowd permits from the National Police upon return to play, Wiku said that the PSSI and the operator of the leagues, PT Liga Indonesia Baru, had to continuously coordinate with the police over the COVID-19 transmission risk status of each region where matches would be held.
"Please understand that the decision to delay the restart was mainly to protect our health and safety," he said.
As of Friday, Indonesia recorded a total of 381,910 confirmed COVID-19 cases with 305,100 recoveries and 13,077 deaths.
Liga 1 and Liga 2 have been put on hold for an entire month and are expected to resume play in November, after having started their respective seasons in February 2020 and November 2019.
PSSI chairman Mochamad Iriawan told a press conference on Sept. 29 that the postponement was in line with the National Police's staunch position against any activities that could possibly jeopardize public health and safety.
On Sept. 28, the police refused to grant the organization permission to hold any major sporting events given the country's ongoing coronavirus emergency.
"The PSSI respects and understands the National Police's decision," Iriawan said as quoted by kompas.com. "Safety and security considerations remain the top priority."
He asked that matches be delayed for only one month before return to play in November, considering the other events that will stall league play over the course of next year, including Ramadan – expected to fall next April – and World Cup preparations in May.
"We ask for a one-month delay so matches can resume as soon as possible. Otherwise, this year's generation [of soccer players] will face difficulties," he said.
Epidemiologist Dicky Budiman of Australia's Griffith University approved of the PSSI's decision to put a pause on the leagues.
"Whatever the activity, if we still have a high prevalence [of COVID-19 cases], the risk of transmission of the virus is nevertheless still high," Dicky said as quoted by kompas.com on Sept. 30, adding that hosting soccer matches that attracted crowds would be counterproductive to the nation's efforts to fight the pandemic. (nkn)