The South African Olympic football coach on Thursday hit out at the “stigma” of his team being hit by Covid, after being forced to isolate himself before a 1-0 loss against Japan. David Notoane said he saw “people running away” from his team after two players and a video analyst tested positive for the coronavirus on Sunday. Twenty-one members of the team’s squad were forced to isolate themselves during the opening period of the tournament after being in close contact on Monday.
South Africa eventually lost to the hosts after a goal from Takefusa Kubo in the 71st minute, but the accumulation of the match left Notoane‘s mouth with a sour taste. “One thing that I think we need to mention is the issue of stigma. Often, when people come to us, you see people running. I think it’s a little insulting,” he said.
South Africa had to miss two training sessions, with players confined to their rooms after being called into close contact. Notoane declined to use the interruptions as an excuse, saying “the rules are the rules” and praising his players’ efforts. But he also urged people to “treat us humanely. It is something that we will appreciate as a team.”
“People start running away from you when you walk up to them, it’s like there’s something wrong with you – the truth is there’s nothing wrong with us.” Athletes designated as close contacts at the Games must pass a negative result six hours before their event to be allowed to compete. They feared that the match would not go on if South Africa failed to register at least the 13 required players.
But he ended the hurdle with six substitutes appointed to his bench and claimed an almost impossible point with his fighting performance against Japan. “When Covid happened, we lost some players and the quality of the team got a bit weak, so we had to mentally unite as a group,” Notoane said.