Sport journalists put in their best to ensure proper and detailed coverage of sporting activities despite the pandemic. Journalists adhere strictly to the health protocol even as they perform their duties.
By Raphael Oni
The African Nations Championship (CHAN) is the first major competition to be held on the African continent since the resumption of sports activities after Covid lockdown. The tournament, which began on January 16 to end on February 7, 2021, is reserved for footballers plying their trade in their own nation’s domestic league. For media professionals, it is an opportunity to get back in the coverage of major sporting events that no one wants to miss.
According to figures released by the Communication Commission of the Confederation of African Football (CAF), the 6th edition of the (CHAN) football tournament broke a record in terms of requests for accreditations. “527 media professionals have been accredited for the coverage of this competition; that is 246 nationals for 281 foreigners representing 33 countries including Cameroon,” the CAF Communication director Alex SIEWE said.
But the resumption of media coverage has not been without constraints. Indeed, due to the global context related to the coronavirus pandemic, accredited journalists are required to comply with the health protocol set by CAF and the Local Organising Committee.
“Accredited professionals (journalists and photographers) wishing to cover the African Nations Championship (CHAN) ‘Cameroon 2020’ are invited to carry out the test 72 hours before each match. The test is free of charge and is carried out according to a schedule defined in advance,” president of Cameroonian Sport Press Association, Bertille Bikoun said.
“Samples are taken by medical units within each competition site and then centralized in reference laboratories. The results are available 48 hours before the match. Only those who test positive are contacted. They are not only informed but also quarantined,” she added.
The result of the test determines whether or not accredited professionals will be granted an access pass to the press tribune, the mixed zone or the conference room for journalists and to the dedicated areas of the stadium for photographers.
This unprecedented situation has not been very easy for journalists. “Strict adherence to barrier measures and gestures such as the presentation of a negative PCR test less than 72 hours ago, entitling them to a pass to access the areas dedicated to accredited media professionals was not well accepted at the beginning. The strict respect of the measures started becoming widespread from the second round,” Bikoun said.
For this 6th edition of CHAN, CAF and the Local Organizing Committee agreed on playing matches behind closed doors. However, stadiums are filled to 25% of their overall capacity during the first round and to 50% from the semi-finals onwards. This gives spectators the opportunity to follow the matches, but in strict compliance with the barrier measures. Wearing a mask is mandatory, as well as keeping a physical distance of one metre in addition to the presentation of a valid ticket.
For CAF officials, organisers, members of the sports delegations of the participating teams, referees, ball collectors and volunteers, the presentation of a negative result to the Covid-19 PCR test dating back at least 72 hours is necessary to access to the stadiums.
In addition to masks, the ball collectors and volunteers involved in the pre-game sports protocol work with disposable gloves.
All these measures are part of the fight against the coronavirus through the “Stay Safe in Africa” campaign launched by CAF. So far, Cameroon is succeeding in what could be a test for the next Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in January 2022. Both the CHAN and AFCON had to be postponed by one year because of the coronavirus pandemic. The CHAN was originally scheduled for 2020.