Senior Sports Reporter
THE domestic football community is celebrating after Government yesterday approved the resumption of the national game with immediate effect.
The Sports and Recreation Commission yesterday wrote to ZIFA, informing them that football, which had been banned since March this year, has been allowed to resume in a phased approach.
The authorities, however, noted that approval, at this initial stage, has only been granted to the Premier Soccer League, the Women Soccer League and the national teams.
All the other football leagues, from Division One to Four, and social matches, remain banned.
Last month, police were forced to issue a stern warning that they will pounce on organisers, and participants, of social football matches which had exploded across the capital.
They also warned that sports clubs’ management, who were giving the greenlight for such matches to be played on their facilities, would also be liable to prosecution for their violation of Covid-19 regulations.
A number of social football games, where there was flagrant violation of the regulations meant to contain the spread of coronavirus, were being held across the capital.
Belgravia Sports Club, in Harare, in particular, appeared to have opened its fields for such social football games but, of late, they have closed their doors from such activities.
Yesterday, SRC director-general, Prince Mupazviriho, explained in his correspondence to ZIFA that teams have been cleared to train, and take part in competitions.
This is in line with the provisions of the Statutory Instrument 200 of 2020.
Mupazviriho said one of the conditions, for the approval, was that the game should be played in bio-bubble concept.
It was agreed that the bio-bubble concept was the way to go.
Bio-bubble refers to a safe and secure environment that is isolated from the outside world to minimise the risk of Covid-19 infection.
A bio-bubble permits only authorised sportspersons, support staff and match officials to enter the protected area after testing negative for Covid-19.
This means teams will be booked in a localised accommodation and will be restricted in their movements to training and playing.
But this model comes with huge financial costs.
Neighbours South Africa adopted the bio-bubble concept to wind up the 2019/20 season.
They estimated that they used nearly R100 million to complete the remaining seven games of the season.
The new Supa Diski season, however, which begins today, will not be played in a bio-bubble.
Government has made it clear that the football authorities will bear their own costs of the bio-bubble.
Fans, of course, will not be allowed into the stadia, for now, while the authorities will continually assess the health risks.
“The Sports and Recreation Commission, hereby, gives you notice, following your application, that the Minister of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation approved the gradual and phased resumption of football activities effective 16th October 2020 in line with the provisions of the Statutory Instrument 200 of 2020,” wrote Mupazviriho.
“Please note that the approval, at this initial stage, is for the following:
Premier Soccer League Teams
Women Soccer League Teams
National Soccer Teams
“The resumption of football activities shall take the format of the mini-league, using the bubble concept, adopted by yourselves.
“The football activities shall, in addition to the requirements specified by the World Health Organisation for safe resumption of sport, Statutory Instrument 200 of 2020, your submitted protocols, other legislation and policy directives relating to the prevention and containment of Covid-19, be subject to the following conditions:
Strict adherence to the bubble concept
Implementation of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)
ZIFA and its affiliates to provide resources and finances to undertake these activities.
“We reiterate that this is a phased approach to resumption of football activities in the country.
“Assessments will be done during this initial stage on whether or not all provisions are in place and adherence to set protocols in order to inform the complete resumption of all football activities.
“Please note that all the protocols for the prevention and containment of Covid-19 must be observed at all times and SRC expect strict and full compliance by all your members.’’
Football had failed to get underway this year because of the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
The game was classified a high-risk sport, under the country’s coronavirus lockdown measures, and has been banned for the past seven months.
Lower-tier and social football will remain banned and authorities have even pledged to ensure that those who are involved in such matches be arrested and prosecuted.
ZIFA came up with a return to football protocol, which was used by the Ministry of Youth, Arts, Sport and Recreation, to determine the feasibility of the game returning in a safe environment.
Felton Kamambo, the ZIFA president, yesterday said the football family will convene a meeting to chat the way forward.
“Unfortunately, I am out of town and I haven’t seen the communication yet. All the same, there is a reason to be happy because, for us football people, life has actually returned to normal.
“Actually, we are celebrating two things at once.
“CAF have also cleared the National Sports Stadium to host international matches, albeit on conditions.
“All the same we will have international football on our doorstep as soon as next month.
“And, now, our top-flight (league) has been cleared to begin. We want to thank the Government, through the Ministry of Youth, Arts, Sport and Recreation, for granting our request.
“Obviously, football will return in phases.
“We are not going to open up for everyone at once. So, we are hoping to adopt the bubble concept in the initial phase and we will be meeting with the concerned stakeholders in the next two to three days.’’