Environment still not conducive for Zim football restart

editorial comment

WHILE football teams across the globe have resumed action, doubt continues to linger over the resumption of the Zimbabwe Premier Soccer League action given the many unanswered questions.

Neighbours South Africa restarted and completed their league programme with Mamelodi Sundowns beating rivals Kaizer Chiefs to the coveted title.

The Sports ministry, working with the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC) — the supreme sports governing body in the country, presented a raft of proposals more than a fortnight ago for consideration by Zifa as football stakeholders design a roadmap for the resumption of the game this season in a mini-league format at four venues, Harare, Bulawayo, Zvishavane and Mutare.

However, those efforts by the authorities are being held back by fundamental issues related to funding of the game.

Several stakeholders have questioned the feasibility of restarting the game this year in an environment in which Zimbabwe is among a host of countries in the world where the effects of COVID-19 have been profound.

While most clubs in Zimbabwe are individually owned and often struggle to service in a harsh economic environment, even company-owned teams such as FC Platinum, Ngezi Platinum, Herentals and Triangle among others have also not been spared by the pandemic which has decimated every sphere –economically and socially.

It is against this background that several stakeholders continue to question the feasibility of the resumption of local football.

There are also concerns that the bill to stage topflight football under the government’s proposed “bio bubble” concept could be out of reach for most clubs, where each team has to get its players and staff tested for COVID-19 before they get into the bio bubble.

COVID-19 testing costs about US$65 for an individual for the reliable polymerase chain reaction test. That means, each club would need to get at least 30 players and officials tested.

Besides, teams will also need to pay for accommodation as they will be required to play 10 matches each for those based in Harare and Bulawayo in the first phase of the competition.

Other centres, namely Mutare and Zvishavane, will have four teams each that will play eight matches before advancing to the knockout stages, where they clash with teams from other centres.

Some clubs, who are supposed to be the main actors in designing the roadmap for football restart have, however, professed ignorance over the details of the proposed bio bubble concept, including the financer of the programme.

They contend that they have not been consulted and want to know who will foot the bill, what the players stand to get and where they would stay, among other key questions. Throughout the duration, clubs have to take care of players’ welfare, including meals.

Worse still, players need at least six weeks to start training before the games can start.

Others also posit that it would not be feasible for the players to start training and get into competitive action within the three months left in the year considering they have been idle since March unless they do consultations with professionals like sports marketing agencies in Latin America and the Jewish sports academy which again may require more money.

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