Zifa’s mini-league tourney in limbo

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THE proposed bio bubble concept, which is expected to take the format of a two-week mini-league tournament in December as domestic football returns in a phased approach, has been thrown into uncertainty with Zifa and the government both refusing to take responsibility for the costs of running what will, in fact, be a pre-season tournament.

BY TAWANDA TAFIRENYIKA

Although the government, through the Sports ministry, greenlighted the resumption of football under strict COVID-19 regulations, it has refused to commit itself to funding the tournament, which is expected to gobble over US$1 million.

While the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC) has clarified that Zifa and its affiliates will finance the tournament, the football federation yesterday declined to commit itself to full funding of the tournament.

The soccer-controlling body said although it would lead the safe return of football, it would confine itself to only funding the testing of players and payment of referees.

The pronouncement by Zifa will leave football stakeholders scratching their heads over the balance to cater for players’ accommodation and prize money.

“We are grateful for government’s decision to allow the country’s most followed sport to be played, albeit in a staggered manner, because the football ecosystem is critical to the well-being of many individuals and families in Zimbabwe,” Zifa said in a statement.

“Zifa is committed to leading the safe return of football by funding the testing of players and paying referees’ fees. We are still engaging government on how other cost centres can be funded to ensure that the return of football happens flawlessly. We are optimistic that government and other stakeholders will collaborate with us to allow the safe return of football.

We are hoping that teams can return to training by October 26, 2020 if all engagements go on smoothly. Thereafter, it has been agreed that six weeks of preparations will take place before actual matches commence.

The bubble tournament could not have come at a better time because it will give our Warriors technical team the opportunity to select a competitive squad for the 2021 African Nations Championship.”

Zifa’s stance follows SRC’s earlier position that the soccer-controlling body and its affiliates would have to mobilise resources for the mini-league tournament.

“The Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC) hereby gives you notice, following your application, that the Minister of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation approved the gradual and phased resumption of football activities effective the 16th of October 2020 in line with the provisions of Statutory Instrument 2020,” read the communiqué addressed to Zifa general-secretary Joseph Mamutse.

“Please note that the approval at this stage is for the following: premier league teams, women soccer league teams and national soccer teams.”

The Felton Kamambo-led Zifa is sitting on a huge windfall after collecting COVID-19 relief funds from both Fifa and Caf.

The association has only disbursed a portion of the money to affiliates in local currency.

For the mini-league to work out, clubs will need funding for accommodation and the upkeep of players as well as money for allowances.

Players will need to be isolated from the public and their families after getting tested for the disease and Zifa is not ready to foot such a bill.

Chicken Inn secretary Tavengwa Hara slammed Zifa for not consulting with the clubs as well as a general lack of information on the project. He reasoned that it didn’t make sense to invest over US$1 million in a pre-season tournament yet there are no funds or a plan on the start of the season proper.