BY FORTUNE MBELE

FC PLATINUM coach Hendrikus Pieter de Jongh (pictured) has urged Zifa to abandon the mini-league tournament which is set to be contested by Premier Soccer League (PSL) sides in December and instead channel resources towards preparing the senior men’s national team for the African Nations Championship (Chan).

The former Highlanders coach, who is preparing his team for the Caf Champions League, opined that the mini-league proposed by government and embraced by Zifa, exposes players to COVID-19.

His voice has amplified earlier calls for Zifa to abandon the project which could gobble well over US$1 million.

He said the mini-league was an unnecessary cost for clubs that were already struggling.

“My advice is for Zifa to support the Warriors for Chan and FC Platinum in the Champions League 100%. Just give the month of December to national team coach (Zdravko Logarusic) and FC Platinum,” he said.

“The national team coach selected 30 players (for Chan) and he can go into training with them and have good preparation for Chan except for FC Platinum players because we are preparing for Champions League.”

He said two friendly matches could then be arranged for the Warriors and FC Platinum in an environment conforming to COVID-19 protocols.

“The national team can then play two friendly matches against FC Platinum in December which will be good for both at a low cost and easy to control environment for the coronavirus.

Players can be tested for COVID-19 before arrival and when they leave for home. I think this is the best way; cheap and safe; that is a personal opinion,” the Dutchman said.

He is of the view that besides the cost associated with the bio-bubble concept, the proposed mini-league is not a good idea given the circumstances.

“My opinion is that the mini-league is not a good idea. I am a professional football coach and very passionate about the game. What is most important at the moment is everyone’s health the world over. I am scared if we are hit by another wave of the coronavirus there would be drama in Africa as is happening in Europe now. We already have three players that have tested positive at Bulawayo City and you ask yourself if it is safe for players and staff,” De Jongh said.

He added: “Most clubs are not in a good financial position judging by the costs and the rains will probably start mid-November and most stadiums in the country have bad drainage systems and football will not be possible. It is a two-week tournament and that means several games will be played in a short time. That is asking for a big problem with injuries and team performances and we can’t compare Zimbabwe to countries in Europe where clubs run on big budgets.”

Sources say the PSL has already presented a budget to Zifa, which the local football mother body has perused and the two-week mini-league under the bio-bubble concept is expected to gobble over US$1 million.

On Wednesday, Zifa said they would be funding the costs of testing players for COVID-19 and referees’ fees, leaving the costs of accommodation, transport and food to clubs, some which have even struggled to pay salaries since March.

Zifa has proposed that clubs should start training on Monday and with the week already coming to an end, nothing concrete has been resolved.

Chicken Inn are adamant they can’t bear the costs of the two-week mini-league.

“At Chicken Inn FC, we don’t do anything away from our budget. Our budgets take a month or two to be approved. We might opt out (of the mini-league) if its not fully sponsored. We can’t knock at the door of the sponsor again after we arm-twisted them to pay the players without them getting any mileage,” Chicken Inn secretary Tavengwa Hara said.

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