COVID-19 task force OKs practice sessions for basketball, football teams

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 3) — Professional basketball and football teams are now allowed to resume their practices and conditioning sessions amid the persistent threat of the coronavirus pandemic, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque announced on Friday.

Roque said the Philippine Sports Commission, Games and Amusements Board, and the Department of Health signed a joint administrative order allowing limited physical activities after some prodding from the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) and football organizations in the country.

"Pinayagan ang practice at conditioning ng basketball at football sangayon sa request ng PBA at ibang football association," he said in a media briefing.

[Translation: We decided to allow the practice and conditioning of basketball and football (leagues), in response to the request of PBA and other football association.]

The PBA 45th season opened on March 8 with only one game. The league decided to suspend the season and practices indefinitely on March 10 due to the rising cases of COVID-19.

PBA Commissioner Willie Marcial said he has yet to receive the formal letter from the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) about the development, but expressed his appreciation in the national government’s decision to resume practices in the 45-year old league.

"Masaya tayo sa development na ito. We're still on track for our scheduled return. I'm sure masaya din ang mga players sa balitang ito dahil sila mismo gusto na makalaro uli," said Marcial in a statement.

[Translation: We are happy with this development. We're still on track for our scheduled return. I’m sure the players are happy with this news because they really want to play.]

The PBA wrote a letter to the IATF-EID last month to seek approval of the conduct of workouts under strict health protocols that will ensure the safety of players and prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The league specified in its letter that only four players, one safety officer and a coach/trainer will be allowed every practice session.

Due to the government’s decision, Marcial said he will immediately call a meeting with the league’s 12 coaches, team managers, and the PBA Board of Governors to consult other additional safety measures needed for the resumption of practices.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Football Federation (PFF) also welcomed the decision of the IATF-EID on allowing practice sessions to football leagues in the country amid the pandemic.

The PFF allowed the Philippine Football League to conduct training sessions with a maximum of 10 people per practice and a 30 minute interval in between sessions.

“We thank both IATF and GAB (Games and Amusements Board), headed by Chairman Abaraham Mitra, for their approval in ensuring that professional sports may push through despite the ongoing pandemic. The next step now is to ensure the health and safety of the players, as we prepare for the start of the PFL,” said PFF president Mariano Araneta Jr. in a statement.

The national football federation also submitted its recommended operations protocol for Philippine football leagues last May, following the guidelines from the Fédération Internationale de Football Association and World Health Organization.