Senior Sports Reporter
GOVERNMENT is considering ZIFA’s latest application for the resumption of domestic football, amid indications a greenlight might only come, after Level Four Covid-19 lockdown is eased.
On February 7, ZIFA submitted their application, in which they proposed to start training on February 22, and get the season start early next month.
Domestic football, which was classified among the high-risk sport codes, under the country’s lockdown rules, failed to take off last year, because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Last year, the Sports Commission came up with an initial approval, for top-flight football to be played, in a secure bubble.
However, this did not materialise, amid some boardroom battles and indications from ZIFA that they didn’t have the funds to bankroll the exercise.
Speaking during a media briefing in Harare, yesterday, Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation Minister, Kirsty Coventry, said the latest ZIFA application “is still being considered”.
She asked the Sports Commission acting director-general, Sebastian Garikai, who was also at the briefing, to she more light on ZIFA’s application.
Garikai said they should be in a position to give feedback, by next week, but noted that ZIFA’s proposed dates were within the Level 4 lockdown period, which was on Monday extended, by a further two weeks.
“The application came, we received it, and it is going through the process,’’ said Garikai.
“It is a thorough process and there are three different stages that each application goes through.
“Maybe, in about a week, we would be able to provide feedback from that particular application.
“But, we also have to take into consideration that the dates, which have been put in place as the dates for resuming training, are falling within a time where we are still in Level Four.
“And, that is also something that is under consideration as we are looking at this application.’’
ZIFA intend to resume football, in a staggered format, starting with the Premier Soccer League.
Local football was thrown into the spotlight, this week, after the Footballers Union of Zimbabwe came up with a campaign “Bring Back Our Football.’’
The campaign captures the voices of footballers, who have endured more than a year, on the sidelines.
The players say their life has now been transformed into a nightmare as they battle to find ways to survive without playing their game.
Ian Nekati, who has played for the Warriors, said their lives were now miserable.
“With the way football stopped, things have not been okay,’’ he said. “We were surviving by selling chickens.
“At times, selling groceries from the boot of our cars, while hiding from authorities.
“That cannot be life.’’
Dynamos captain, Patson Jaure, made a passionate appeal to the game’s leaders and the authorities.
“I would like to say something to the heads of football, please help us to resume football,’’ he said.
“It’s our profession, we are not used to not playing and can they please make sure that we start, it would be safe for us, as players, with regular Covid-19 tests, so that we are safe.
His Highlanders counterpart, Ariel Sibanda, said their main source of revenue has been closed.
“Most of us, as players, we were surviving with money, from the games, and winning bonuses.’’
Manica Diamonds’ Tatenda Mudewe, said the players, who were already struggling, now found themselves in a very difficult corner.
“In our country Zimbabwe, already, our salaries are very low,’’ he said. “We rely on winning bonuses, as well as travel allowances, we add that to the salary so that we can sustain ourselves.’’
Bruce Horoma, one of the most influential players at Black Rhinos, said they could only make money while playing football.
“There is money that comes while we are playing and we are not getting it because we are not playing,’’ he said.
“It’s almost a year since we last playedfootball so, for us, to get that money, while we are sitting at home, that’s not possible.’’
Veteran forward, Mkhokeli Dube, said the players were at a crossroads.
“We don’t know when we are going to start, so we don’t how hard we have to push, for us to prepare ourselves for training, when it comes,’’ he said.
Herentals’ Taona Chipondeni, said this has been the most challenging time for them.
“Since we were young, until now, that’s all we are good at (playing football),’’ he said.
“Since we stopped, life has been difficult for us, all that we know is football, if football starts, then our fortunes will change.’’’
The PSL also want to restart football, in a competition format, which will cut costs, and make it affordable for all teams, to have a fresh start.
League champions FC Platinum, currently in Senegal for a CAF Confederation Cup tie, have been preparing for under a secure bio-bubble.
PSL chairman, Farai Jere, said the elite clubs were ready for action and cannot afford to go another year, without playing football.
Jere believes they have put in place satisfactory groundwork for the safe return of the game.
He said the health protocols, put in place by the PSL medical committee when the league was given the initial nod to resume last November, were still applicable.
“Clubs and players were training and we didn’t have any incidents,’’ he said. “We could have been having this conversation, saying PSL have flouted these regulations but that’s not the case.
“So, the issue of protocols, they are there. They were actually given to us. It’s a document that was all encompassing, which had all the stakeholders involved.
‘’The protocols are there, the clubs are aware, the clubs are ready to resume football and this is the conversation on our different platforms as leaders, from the emergency committee to the governors.
“They are hungry for the game; they want football to come back.’’