Innocent Kurira, Sports Reporter
THE proposed mini-league tournament to mark the return of football has suffered a stillbirth after Zifa announced that the game can only resume in March and teams are expected to start training in January.
Zifa had previously said it was preparing for a bio-bubble mini-league tournament, but nothing concrete came out of those plans and Wednesday’s announcement virtually scrapped the idea of the tournament.
Zifa had intended to use the mini-league tournament to help prepare locally-based players for the Chan, which kicks off in Cameroon next month, but the recently chosen Warriors’ squad will have to depend on some other forms of preparation to the players to a certain level of match fitness.
According to timelines, the two-week mini-league should be starting, with all players and officials in a secure environment cut off from the outside world right up to the end.
Zifa was going to bear the costs for testing and accommodation by providing the Covid-19 equipment that include thermometers, masks and hand sanitisers.
However, on Wednesday Zifa wrote to its affiliates inquiring if they are ready to start training in January.
“Following government’s approval for football to return after the Covid-19 break, the (Zifa) executive committee would like to know if you are prepared to start training on the 4th of January 2021. The proposed date for commencement of league programmes is the first week of March in 2021.
“Please bear in mind that the resumption of all football activities is preceded by mandatory Covid-19 testing of all stakeholders, with only Covid-free individuals being allowed to participate, while those found positive should self-isolate,” read a memo from Zifa to all affiliates.
“Football post-Covid-19 brings about new realities for football institutions which you should all brace for. The likelihood of playing in empty stadiums is very high considering that large gatherings are still prohibited.
“Zifa will honour its promise to pay for initial tests for all players as well as paying referees’ fees for the forthcoming season. It is everyone’s responsibility to religiously adhere to standard procedures of operating recommended by the Government, Caf and Fifa.
The only way to convince the Government to gradually allow supporters into the stadiums is by ensuring that football remains Covid free.”
Whether or not the new dates will stand is all dependent on Zifa’s relations with football stakeholders such as the Premier Soccer League and Sports and Recreation Commission.
The domestic football governing body chiefs are currently at war with PSL chief executive officer Kennedy Ndebele over a litany of charges.
Zifa is also squabbling with the SRC after the country’s supreme sports body suspended the association’s chief executive officer Joseph Mamutse for alleged misdemeanours.
The association retaliated by taking SRC to the Administrative Court over Mamutse’s suspension, arguing that its intervention is unwarranted.
So, while Zifa might have good intentions in pushing for resumption of the local league in March, the prevailing environment is very toxic.
All hands need to be on deck for a successful safe resumption of the local leagues.
The PSL was unavailable for comment.