BY FORTUNE MBELE
LOCAL football fans have voiced their concern at the banning of football just four weeks into the Chibuku Super Cup tournment.
The fans feel the game was treated unfairly considering how players and officials were adhering to COVID-19 protocols.
The Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC) recently lifted suspension on 24 sport codes considered low risk, but maintained a tight leash on football.
Since football resumed last month with the Chibuku Super Cup after the first suspension in March last year, only three players have tested positive for the coronavirus, the fans contend that it was not necessary to suspend the game which was being played behind closed doors.
Others suggested that the latest ban is a kick in the teeth on the sponsors who had invested a lot to rescue the ailing game.
Patron of the Dynamos supporters’ chapters in Matabeleland, Sunungurai Bhiza lamented the new suspension saying it has a negative bearing on players who depend on the game for their upkeep.
“The suspension is not good at all, especially to the players whose livelihood depends on football. Even for us the fans it’s not good at all. We were beginning to enjoy ourselves watching the games from the comfort of our homes and it was giving us peace of mind. The suspension does not make sense at all,” Bhiza said.
Clubs continue to pay players’ salaries without any activity since last year.
Bhiza said he felt the PSL had done well in following the required COVID-19 protocols.
“I thought the PSL was abiding by the COVID-19 protocols. We cannot blame the PSL here because it is coming from the top and I think we need to direct this to the government. In Europe, supporters are slowly being allowed into the stadiums and it is only us in Zimbabwe. Remember Delta (Beverages) has poured in a lot of money into football over the years. If it continues like this, they will hold on to their sponsorship. Sponsors will be jittery; actually, if there was a sponsor who wanted to come in, they will be hesitant now,” he said.
Highlanders Harare Supporters Chapter chairperson Derrick Ncube echoed similar sentiments, but said if government felt the COVID-19 threat was overwhelming, they had a right to suspend the game.
Ncube said considering how PSL had handled the COVID-19 protocol, football deserves the nod.
“Having seen the Chibuku Super Cup under COVID-19, I think everything was done above board by the PSL in the circumstances. Football was handled very well. People were watching their football online and on television. Hopefully, the COVID-19 cases go down and football is reconsidered. Football has been hard-done by the suspension, but teams have been complying with testing. We are killing our football, but if government feels the COVID-19 threat warrants that sport is suspended, let it be. But clearly, we are scaring away our sponsors. No one will commit to something that is unpredictable,” Ncube said.
FC Platinum supporters’ chairperson Kudakwashe Gumbo was also not happy with the ban.
“The general atmosphere is that we are disappointed. There was a delay in the resumption of football compared to other countries. We thought that was because we wanted to be fully prepared to resume. My understanding is that when we finally resumed, all protocols were followed. Can football be considered a red-spot zone? After the rounds of testing, did we see an escalation in COVID-19 cases which would result in football being stopped? I believe football players are responsible and the game is their livelihood for them to go around into crowds. If we see cases rise in football, then football can be stopped. PSL has made efforts to bring sanity in terms of supporters and they have not been a problem, they are not going to the stadiums. We will be playing in the Champions League and preparations will be shoddy and we won’t do well like last time. We have Cosafa, Chan coming up and how do coaches select players to represent the country when they are inactive?” Gumbo said.
PSL chief executive officer Kennedy Ndebele over the weekend told StandardSport that there was light at the end of the tunnel.
“Our position is that we stand guided by the government directives and guidelines. However, we are hopeful that we will get clearance to complete the Chibuku Cup and thereafter make an application for the resumption of the league,” Ndebele said.
He said the PSL has done its best to ensure the safety of players and officials and “. . . are even prepared to comply with any new regulations that may be required of us.”
- Follow Fortune on Twitter: @FortuneMbele