Zifa slammed over US$1m mini-league

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BY TAWANDA TAFIRENYIKA

SOME Premier Soccer League clubs are puzzled by the decision made by football authorities to stage a costly pre-season mini-league instead of coming up with a proper roadmap towards the resumption of full league competition.

While clubs are generally delighted that the game has been given the greenlight to resume and the pronouncement that Zifa will bear the costs of the two-week competition based on the bio-bubble concept, the aggrieved clubs are questioning the rationale behind staging a mini-league at a cost of more than US$1 million.

The clubs said the football leaders did not apply their minds and that the decision had been made in haste as it did not address fundamental issues.

The clubs posit that despite the return of football action, there was still a deafening silence by the game’s leaders on the start of the season.

Chicken Inn secretary Tavengwa Hara yesterday said the major problem was the reluctance by the leaders to engage the clubs on how football activity should resume following the COVID-19-induced break which started in March.

He said clubs could not plan properly as they did not know how they would proceed with the ratifying of contracts for the players as they were unclear as to when the season would commence.

Hara said merely announcing the start of a two-week tournament would not address the uncertainties that have dogged the game since the start of the lockdown.

“We are excited as clubs that the game has been allowed to resume and crucially that Zifa will fund the tournament. But our major concern is that the pronouncement we have seen in the Press does not tell us when the league will resume,” he said.

“It is silent on that and there is lack of clarity regarding the start of the full season. As clubs, nothing is being communicated officially to us and the question is how do we plan for a two-week tournament? After the two-week tournament, then what? Some of the players need to sign new contracts and how do we go around that without knowing the date the league will resume? You give a player a one-year contract and he plays for four months, then the league starts in August or November. You also want to plan as a club, setting goals with the coach, how do you do that without any dates on the start of the league? It’s problematic because the interest is about the league championship. Even for that tournament we expected to get fixtures from PSL because the teams in the league are known and they also know the stadiums that will be used,” Hara
said.

Observers are also questioning the logic behind staging a two- week tournament that will gobble more than US$1m when the same amount could be enough to run a proper league.

The logic of using such a huge amount to stage a pre-season tournament at a time clubs are struggling to pay players has also been questioned.

Zifa said they would fund the staging of the tournament, pay for COVID-19 tests and purchase personal protective equipment as well as finance the bio-bubble programme, but the soccer mother body has not committed to pay the players.

Domestic football action, which halted in March due to the coronavirus lockdown measures, was given the greenlight to resume in a mini-league format by government under strict conditions last week.

The bio-bubble is a concept where players, support staff and match officials will be isolated from the outside world.