BY TAWANDA TAFIRENYIKA
THE Premier Soccer League (PSL) has been urged to dump its normal league format and come up with a crush programme to fill in the gap of what will be left when the coronavirus-induced ban on public gatherings and sporting events is lifted.
On Tuesday, President Emmerson Mnangagwa banned sporting events and other gatherings as one of a raft of measures to try and minimise the spread of the coronavirus.
The directive left PSL clubs and other leagues stranded as they were about to commence their programmes for 2020 and have been left with a lot of homework as to how they can fit in their programmes in the last six months of the year.
Former PSL secretary-general Chris Sambo has suggested that the current league management should come up with a special programme for this year such as two regional mini leagues that will culminate in a champion being decided at national level as 18 teams cannot possibly play each other on home and away basis while also accommodating cup matches and the national teams within the six months.
He said another option would be to come up with cup competitions to fill in the gap and get going next year while an August to May season also remained another route that the PSL could take.
“We are confronted with coronavirus, we have to accept the situation we are in right now and what is clear is that given the time available should our league start in June, it will be practically impossible for the season to be completed in six months,” he said.
“I think it is important for all football stakeholders to engage and come up with a knockout tournament that will be played on a mini-league basis. Games can also be played behind closed doors. There is no need to worry about clubs playing before empty stadiums because in any case only Dynamos, Highlanders and Caps United enjoy good crowds. The best way to move forward with our game this season in light of this pandemic is to have clubs playing in a tournament,” said Sambo.
The former PSL boss also said the development has provided football stakeholders with an opportunity to fix the stadiums and realign the football calendar to the rest of the football world.
“Our football has always been in absolute shambles even without coronavirus and we should take this as a big opportunity to fix our game. It is a blessing in disguise. We have always had infrastructural challenges, so this is an opportunity that has presented itself for us as a country to fix our stadiums not only to the specifications of Caf, but with a view to ensure they meet the standard to host big football tournaments like the Africa Cup of Nations.
“It’s also an opportunity to realign our football calendar to the rest of the world. The current PSL chairperson (Farai Jere) tried to get the calendar realigned to match international trends, but the efforts were met with resistance from some quarters. We have not heard anything on this up to now. So we take this as an opportunity to fix our stadiums and realign our football calendar in line with the football world. We need all football stakeholders to unite on this. So that would mean our league next year will start in August.”
Football leagues in the world are grappling with fixtures schedule disruptions while some are facing the grim possibility of failing to finish their programmes and the Zimbabwean PSL management finds itself in the same predicament.