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Dark cloud hangs over football return



The Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC) has hinted that domestic football competitions are unlikely to be allowed to resume outside the bio-bubble set up.

SRC made a raft of demands to FC Platinum, who applied and were granted special waiver to prepare and compete in Caf competitions, giving an insight to what the supreme sports body will ask of the Premier Soccer League (PSL) for domestic competitions such as the Chibuku Super Cup to resume.

The Chibuku Super Cup was halted at the halfway stage following a national surge in COVID-19 infections.

It looks like the SRC will demand that players and officials be housed in water-tight bio-bubble environs for the duration of the tournaments, something that clubs, struggling for mere basics such as player remuneration, can barely afford.

FC Platinum have been allowed to resume training, but are yet to do so as they are fighting to meet the SRC demands.

They hope to start training next week, but even that is still uncertain considering what has been demanded of them by the SRC.

Besides the bio-bubble set up where the players are barred from leaving the secure environment, the SRC has asked everyone to be vaccinated, which comes for free, but they also have to get weekly PCR tests and two antigen tests between the PCR tests.

PCR tests cost a minimum of US$30 while antigen tests cost about US$15 in Harare.

FC Platinum are one of the wealthiest clubs in the country and should afford to satisfy those conditions, but the demands have cast a dark shadow on the resumption of the Chibuku Super Cup with some clubs struggling to provide for players’ upkeep.

Manica Diamonds failed to provide players’ tracksuits during the winter season and could hardly come up with US$90 for test each week.

Clubs would require about US$90 per individual for tests if the SRC were to make the same demands that they have made to FC Platinum.

The situation has been dire in some clubs so much that they have had to be bailed out by the supporters.

Highlanders have since extended a begging bowl to the supporters as the club battles to meet remuneration costs.

Caps and Dynamos are also struggling and a demand of US$90 a week per individual would prove too much of a cost.

Clubs would need to finance the tests for at least 30 players and officials.

The clubs would also have to finance the bio-secure environment where players can neither be visited nor leave the facility.

They can only leave the facility for training and matches. Clubs will have the extra costs of financing meals, boarding allowances and the extra COVID-19 tests.

A letter written to FC Platinum by SRC in NewsDay Weekender‘s possession with respect to resumption of training for the Caf Champions League paint a gloomy picture of the future of the Chibuku Super Cup and league.

“SRC hereby gives you notice, following your application that the Minister of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation has approved and granted a special waiver for your application for permission for FC Platinum to resume training, prepare and participate in the Caf Champions League. The activities shall in addition to the requirements specified in Statutory 189 of 2021, World Health Organisation guidelines on safe resumption of sport, your approved protocols, national legislation and policy directives, standard operation procedures, international federation protocols relating to the prevention of and containment of COVID-19 be subject to the following conditions.

  • Full compliance with and association’s SRC approved COVID-19 protocol.
  • Athletes and technical staff encouraged to have been vaccinated and ensure copies of vaccination cards are submitted to Zifa for SRC.
  • The team will enter and stay in a “sealed” bio-safe bubble for the training camp.
  • The teams will not receive any visitors at any point in time and will also not exit the bio-bubble to visit shops, friends and relatives etc.
  • Facilitate mandatory testing of all athletes and officials before the start of training camp and prior to travel as well as submit copies of COVID-19 certificates to the SRC. The teams will be subjected to weekly PCR tests and two antigen rapid tests between the PCR tests
  • COVID-19 compliance team must maintain special COVID-19 registers to be completed on a daily basis and capturing results for blood pressure and sugar levels, COVID-19-related symptoms such as running nose, temperature etc. The copies of scanned forms and summary will be submitted to the SRC without failure within 48 hours of having been  completed.
  • Applicants to sanitise and educate all participants and venue operators about COVID 19 through various media such as signage, fliers, posters, etc.
  • Be guided by Health and Child Care  ministry on local health measures and government declarations on level of lockdown at any given time.
  • Ensure athletes and officials strictly adhere to the WHO and Health ministry protocols for mitigating the spread of COVID-19.
  • Provide training programme and itinerary to SRC for monitoring purposes.
  • Apply separately to SRC for clearance of any other competitions (including matches).
  • Please note that those COVID-19 preventive and containment measures must be observed at all times and SRC expects full compliance by all your members.
  • Enforcement officers will monitor compliance with the stipulated conditions and any violation may result in the withdrawal of the authority and other sanctions as provided by the law.
  • The athletes and technical staff are required to observe and abide by the COVID-19 preventive measures, failure of which will result in the approval being immediately cancelled.”
  • Follow Tawanda on Twitter @Tafitawa

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