Langton Nyakwenda

BENEATH the euphoria that greeted Friday’s announcement by the Sports and Recreation Commission that football was returning with immediate effect lies one grand question.

Who will fund this costly endeavour?

The SRC wrote to ZIFA, advising the association that football, which had been shelved since March due to the coronavirus, had been allowed to return in a mini-league format using the bio-bubble concept where players, support staff and match officials will stay isolated from the outside world.

At this stage, permission has been granted to the Premier Soccer League, the Women’s Soccer League and the national teams.

While there are massive celebrations within a fraternity that has been missing the nation’s most popular sport, it remains to be seen who will fund the bio-bubble concept, after Government made it clear the football authorities would bear the costs.

A number of PSL club officials who spoke to The Sunday Mail Sport yesterday expressed concern over how the bubble would be conducted in an era where teams are struggling financially.

Dynamos chairman, Isaiah Mupfurutsa, welcomed the return of football, but is worried about the cost factors associated with a bio-bubble concept.

“As Dynamos we welcome the approval to resume football. We are actually happy and feel this development should be supported by all stakeholders,” said Mupfurutsa.

“Look, the situation is a bit under control in terms of Covid-19 cases and there is no doubt football can be played.

“However, we will need clarity on who will bear the costs of this bio-bubble concept. There are a lot of costs involved for clubs to comply with Covid-19 regulations.”

This publication has gathered that it will cost in excess of US$500 000 for the project to be a success.

It’s a figure that is worrying most club officials.

“If clubs were struggling with budgets all along when there was no action, it will be much tougher now. Our costs will rise because we will be staying more in hotels so it’s kind of a huge challenge.

“We all know accommodation is expensive and it will be a tall order for clubs to fulfil those games. It will be a mammoth task for clubs hence the need for more clarity on the issue,” said Mupfurutsa. “But, otherwise, we are supportive of the move. We want the concept to be a success.

“We have the CHAN finals coming (in January) and our players cannot go into that tournament with no match fitness.”

Black Rhinos secretary-general, Edward Mutukwa, is concerned about the state of the country’s football infrastructure given the fact that most of the games will be played in wet conditions.

“Sure, it’s a great relief to football, but we left it until too late,” Mutukwa said.

“A number of challenges will confront us. Apart from the infrastructure issues which are susceptible to the impact of the rainy season, the bio-bubble concept itself is expensive.

“You need to separate players from the community, including their families, to conditionally safe areas and in our case, these can be hotels.

“The question is how much is hotel accommodation for a team of 30 including the technical department for a day.

“How many days do we need to quarantine the players for the preparatory training and the mini-tournament?

“Mathematical computational gymnastics, in this case, will tell you that with our financial challenges this was just a matter of passing the buck to ZIFA by the SRC.

“Latent wars still exist and this is not good for our football.”

Premier Soccer League chairman, Farai Jere, revealed that PCR testing of players and technical staff begins this week with training expected to commence next week.

Clubs will need between six to eight weeks of pre-season training before the proposed mini-league tournament kicks off.

“We are very happy football is back,” Jere said yesterday.

“We want to thank Government, the SRC, ZIFA and all stakeholders for this development. Everyone misses football and we are happy it has returned in a scientific way.

“Clubs have to start training for about six to eight weeks before the proposed tourney kicks off. By then, I am sure we will have worked out all the modalities associated with hosting such a competition.

“Next week (this week), there will be PCR testing for all players and technical staff. Thereafter, routine tests will be conducted.”

However, Chicken Inn secretary, Tavengwa Hara, is sceptical about the bio-bubble concept.

“There are a lot of questions that need to be answered.

“Can the bio-bubble concept work in Zimbabwe?” queried Hara.

“We will see how it goes, but it
will be difficult for us clubs to fund this concept. We can’t go back to the sponsor and ask for funding of this bubble when the sponsor has been paying players and staff who are not working.”

The coming week could be a hectic one for both ZIFA and the PSL, who have the mandate to educate their affiliates on this new concept.

Some club administrators like Herentals spokesperson, Fainos Madhumbu, are lacking basic information on what is really happening.

“Maybe the authorities will school us in the near future,” he said.

“On the issue of costs, I think it’s supposed to be a shared responsibility between clubs, Government and ZIFA who should use part of the Covid-19 relief fund for that.”

Harare City chairman, Alois Masepe, thinks there is a misconception on football resumption.

“Football people should understand that what has been allowed is the resumption of training for clubs to ensure the players are in condition, especially looking at the CHAN finals.

“The mini-league tournament is subject to securing full sponsorship for both the tournament and the bio-bubble concept.

“As things stand, there’s no sponsorship or funding for the mini-league tournament,” said Masepe.

ZIFA spokesperson, Xolisani Gwesela, was not available for comment.