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PSL tourney in limbo

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THE resumption of domestic football this year has been thrown into further doubt amid reports that Zifa is yet to engage government and other football stakeholders on US$1 million needed for the proposed bio-bubble concept to kick off and succeed.

BY TAWANDA TAFIRENYIKA

Domestic football, which has been on hold since March when authorities imposed a national lockdown to contain the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, is expected to restart early next month with a two-week mini-league tournament.

Although 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, saying Zifa and its affiliates would foot the bill.

Zifa in response 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 bio bubble concept is expected to gobble over US$1m. The soccer-controlling body said it was engaging the government and other stakeholders on how other cost centres can be funded.

But about a month before the proposed resumption, some clubs have not received the required COVID-19 test kits, while Zifa has not yet engaged government formally over funding some aspects of the tournament that include accommodation and upkeep of players and officials during the tournament.

Accommodation and living expenses as well as travel costs are expected to gobble a larger chunk of the budget.

“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,” Zifa said in a statement a few weeks ago.

“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.”

However, Sports and Recreation Commission director-general Prince Mupazviriho yesterday said they had not been approached by Zifa over the funding of the two-week tournament.

“We have not been approached by Zifa in relation to that. It will be difficult for me to comment on that because they have not engaged us on the issue of funding the tournament,” he said.

For the mini-league to work out, clubs will need funding for accommodation and the players’ upkeep 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.

The football federation says it needs a helping hand as it is already grappling with funding national teams’ international assignments.

The Warriors are set to clash with African champions Algeria in back-to-back 2021 African Cup of Nations qualifiers this month.

They travel to the north African country first for the showdown on November 12 before hosting the Desert Foxes at the National Sports Stadium in Harare four days later.

With no commercial flights to Algeria because of lockdown measures, Zifa is mobilising resources to charter a flight.

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