SA Under-23 coach Notoane welcomes decision to postpone the Olympic Games to next year

SA Under-23 coach Notoane welcomes decision to postpone the Olympic Games to next year

South Africa’s national Under-23 coach David Notoane has welcomed a decision to postpone the 2020 Olympics to next year‚ saying all athletes and teams competing deserve “a level playing field” in their preparations.

Notoane steered his team to qualification for Tokyo 2020 with their dramatic penalties victory against Ghana in the third-place playoff at the U-23 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt in November.

He admitted even his side’s preparations have been affected by the global shutdown of sports due to the coronavirus pandemic‚ with a March 27 friendly against hosts Japan having been called off in February.

Organisers announced a long-awaited and much-speculated on postponement of the Tokyo Olympics – scheduled for July 24 to August 9 – on Tuesday.

“The IOC (International Olympic Committee) has finally given a position and a direction in relation to the postponement of the Olympic Games to next year before summer after taking a very measured and cautious approach to what is before us in terms of all measures to curve the coronavirus‚” Notoane said.

“We welcome the decision taken by the IOC and the Tokyo Olympic organising committee‚ and the prime minister of Japan [Shinzo Abe] of course‚ in making a decision that benefits everyone. It can only be fair that everyone is allowed an equal opportunity to prepare for the Olympics.

“However‚ naturally I am disappointed as we were really gearing up our preparations for the Olympics‚ of course also acknowledging that out preparations had been destabilised with our trip to Japan [called off]. However coronavirus is here upon us.

“We still remain hopeful that after this pandemic has gone past us‚ and the world has stabilised‚ there could possibly be a review of the decision to postpone the Games to next year.

“ ... We are happy now that we know where we stand. And of course we have to acknowledge that we support this decision because there is more to life than sport.

“ ... I would like to support the government and President Cyril Ramaphosa for declaring a lockdown. That was‚ for me‚ the best news we could have ever received given what lies ahead of us.”

Football’s global ruling body Fifa have called for next year’s rescheduled men’s Olympic football tournament to be changed from an U-23 age limit to U-24 to allow the same players who qualified their teams to the event to compete.

Global confirmed cases of coronavirus raced past 450‚000‚ and deaths past 20‚000‚ by Thursday morning. South Africa‚ with 709 cases by Wednesday‚ was to enter a lockdown on Thursday at midnight.