Resumption of Zimbabwean football inches closer

Xolisani Gwesela

THE resumption of domestic football moved a step closer yesterday when ZIFA announced they will comply with the conditions tabled by the Sports and Recreation Commission.

The country’s national game has been frozen, for more than a year, after authorities halted the local programmes, as part of measures to tame the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, international assignments, including matches involving the Warriors and FC Platinum’s CAF Champions League assignments, were given special clearance.

On Monday, the Sports Commission announced the path was now clear for high risk sports codes, like football, to resume their activities, upon satisfying certain conditions.

Yesterday, the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services tweeted, that “all sporting activities will now resume and observe Standard Operating Procedures.’’

ZIFA said they complied with the regulations yesterday and submitted their commitment letter to the Sports Commission.

The associations are expected to conduct PCR or Rapid Antigen testing, on all the players, officials and club staff, at least 48 hours, prior to commencement of training.

These tests are required within every 14 days, of training, from the last test.

“When competitive leagues resume, testing should be done for all players, officials and club staff, at least 48 hours, prior to commencement of competition and friendly matches,’’ the requirements stipulate.

“Thereafter, testing after every 14 days, whichever is earlier.

“Testing to be done 48hrs before games. All facilities (stadia) to be disinfected before each game. No spectators allowed.

“All facilities to be zoned in line with IF guidelines and testing done as per the zones. All facilities, such as showers and changing rooms, to be disinfected regularly.

“All teams to keep a logbook of all athletes, and associated sport staff entering and exiting the stadia, and keep such logbook for inspections by SRC enforcement officers, at any time, within 30 days from the date the event to which it relates, took place, and register kept.’’

The associations are also expected to appoint club compliance officers to ensure full adherence to the Covid-19 national and international protocols.

In addition, the associations are expected to recommend vaccination of athletes.

The country yesterday received their second batch of vaccines from China.

The national game, though, is likely to return in phases, because authorities are still concerned about the possibility of a third Covid-19 wave, hitting the country.

“The Zimbabwe Football Association has preliminarily accepted terms tabled by the regulator, Sport and Recreation Commission (SRC), on 15 March 2021 as a pre-condition for the resumption of football,’’ the association, through their spokesperson, Xolisani Gwesela, said.

“The decision has been transmitted to the Sports and Recreation Commission and, most importantly, to all our affiliates, who have been eagerly waiting for the return of the beautiful game.

“ZIFA is grateful to Government, for providing the platform, for a safe and sustainable return of football.

“We are confident that the proposed standard operating procedures will result in low risk of infection, as well as manageable costs, for all stakeholders.

“ZIFA will keep its obligation to foot referees’ fees, for all leagues, as well as footing some costs for Covid-19 testing.

“The Association has further engaged all affiliates, for further input, to ensure that the eventual standard operating procedures we shall use, are relevant to local football realities.’’

The Sports Commission are tomorrow expected to unveil the associations which have complied, to adhere to the regulations, and in a position to meet the containment measures.

The Premier Soccer League, who are likely to be given the first clearance to resume their activities, said they were ready, and were excited, over the imminent return of football.

Farai Jere, the PSL chairman, has been on a crusade to try and get the domestic game, to return, in one way or the other, for the sake of all the people who make a living out of the industry.

“We are excited, we have been clamouring for this. We have always said we are ready,’’ said Jere, who is also the president of five-time champions, CAPS United.

“We even managed to train last year and have always been in preparation.

“We have a listening Government, they listened, they have always been considering our plight.

“ZIFA have accepted the protocols and, as the mother, are leading everything and we will wait for instructions from them.

“Once we get the go-ahead, everything will fall into place, we will have our calendar, pre-season, announcements will be made, and sponsors will be engaged, by the relevant people.

“For the past few weeks, there was public outcry on football return.

“What I would like to assure our fans is that there is going to be a lot of competition, and it’s going to be an exciting season, after a long wait. “The clubs have been preparing and some even beefed up their squads.’’

The Sports Commission made it clear on Monday that they are not in any position to offer any assistance to the associations.

On Monday, Sports Commission board member, Allen Chiura, who is also the chairman of the SRC Covid-19 committee, said circumstances had changed, allowing some of the high risk sports codes to return.

Chiura is a Urological Surgeon, who lived and practiced in the United States, for 30 years.

He returned home in 2012 to open his Urology practice, and to facilitate the training of young surgical subspecialists, at Parirenyatwa Hospital.

“We had rather an unpleasant job of stopping people from playing sport. Now, we are in a pleasant position to try and see how we can get people back to play sport safely,’’ said Chiura.

“We make recommendations to the Ministry, we do not do any of the approvals.

“We just pass on the recommendations.

“We have just sent out today (Monday), letters to all the medium-and-high-risk sport national associations, asking them to basically look over the protocols we have placed for their resumption, and they are hopefully going to get back those to us, to tell us they have the financial capability to follow through with these recommendations.

“And, that being the case, we would be able to resume high-risk sport, and it’s going to be in gradual phase.

“Again, we have to remember, as SRC, our job is to make sure we do not create any events that may lead to being super spreader events.’’

“Covid-19 is still here, despite what people may think, there is still a possibility of a third wave coming through.” – Herald