Zimbabwe football calendar change: Legends speak

Ephraim Chawanda

AS the world grapples with containing the Covid-19 pandemic, the domestic football calendar has ignited intense debate with many stakeholders suggesting that the ongoing lockdown is the opportune time to align the local calendar with those of other countries.

The domestic football calendar runs from March to November while European and other African leagues run from August to June.

Zifa recently released a statement following their meeting where they tentatively set August/September as the months for the possible resumption of leagues in the country.

Part of the statement issued by Zifa spokesperson Xolisani Gwesela read: “In its meeting on May 3, 2020, the Zifa emergency committee also noted that other football associations were planning to resume football operations around August/September 2020 and has tentatively set this date as to when our leagues will commence should our Government announce the complete end of the lockdown any day before the envisaged dates.

“The resumption of football activities will also be done in consultation with Caf and Fifa. For Zifa, should the season begin in September, such will see us also aligning our football calendar with the rest of the world.”

This week, Post Sport sought comments on the matter from legendary figures in the game.

Former CAPS United leftback, Size Torindo, who is also working with youths at schools in Canada to develop football at the grassroots level said, “The shift to August will be a good one. It will put us in the same boat with the rest of world.

“It won’t change anything much on the local side, but it will give professional players better arrangements with their international teams. This relates to national team participation and release from their clubs for national duty.”

However, Ephraim Chawanda, the defence stalwart who was popularly referred to as ‘The Rock of Gibraltar’ during his hey days, has a different view.

“I think we should wait, otherwise we will oppose the rest of the pack as they are also struggling to maintain that calendar. There is a possibility that other leagues might shift to playing the February to November season.

“However, I think we are now forced to consider the European calendar given that there is an undated lockdown. There are variables which have to be considered, like the Qatar World Cup,” said Chawanda.

Former Tandanda FC and national team shot stopper, Nelson Bandura said, “This is an opportune time to adjust the calendar, thanks to this unfortunate pandemic. We just hope our football leaders are up to the task.

“It makes sense, our players playing overseas will become more accessible. They will be available for national team duty during the international break. There won’t be any hassles for them to come.

“Previously, their teams overseas were unwilling to release them. It was unfair for some overseas players to be called upon to play a national team match while they are on their off-season break.”

Former Tanganda FC defender, Arnold Tsunga said, “Harmonising the global soccer calendar makes sense. It reduces disruption arising from competing tournaments that causes nightmares for African players plying their trade in Europe. It removes the difficult choice players have to make between playing for the national team or securing a regular playing time in their competitive professional teams.

“On the other hand, harmonising the calendar will also create other problems. For us in Zimbabwe, we experience heavy rains between December and February, thereby make it difficult for many surfaces to be playable. This will also result in poor attendance and numerous postponements.”

However, Premier Soccer League boss, Kenny Ndebele, recently dampened the excitement over the possibility of moving the football calendar, saying the move is not feasible given that other basic conditions, including infastructural upgrades, are yet to be met.

Ndebele, who is the league’s chief executive officer, explained that the change could only be done by the Zifa assembly, adding that at their last meeting, the Zifa emergency committee only set possible dates for the resumption of football activities. – Manica Post