Sports

National sport associations sweat over Covid-19

Ellina Mhlanga
Sports Reporter
THE unfortunate development in the Warriors camp where 14 people have tested positive for Covid-19 comes at a time when there was some hope for the sport in the country as there was progress being made in terms of resumption.

ZIFA confirmed nine players and five officials tested positive after tests were conducted when the squad returned to camp after their short break for the Christmas holidays.

This is not the first time a national team has recorded positive cases of the virus. The national cricket team had to quarantine two players and two members of staff following positive Covid-19 cases during their preparations for the tour of Pakistan in November.

This may be an indicator of the challenges posed by the pandemic in the resumption of sport under the prevailing environment and probably there is need to revisit the situation and come up with solutions on how this can be addressed besides the guidelines that have been put in place.

Some of the team sports that have been allowed to return include netball, handball, cricket and hockey along a number of individual sport codes.

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However, with confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the country on the rise, there is a need for all stakeholders to go an extra-mile to avoid sport becoming a hot spot.

Hockey Association of Zimbabwe have taken precautionary measures by suspending all face-to-face training with immediate effect until further notice.

The national association sent out a document to all national coaches and management teams yesterday announcing the decision.

“The Hockey Association of Zimbabwe regrets to advise that all face-to-face training sessions of all national squads is to be suspended with immediate effect until further notice. The decision has not been taken lightly and is due to the recent developments regarding the increased spread of the Covid-19 virus seen within the Zimbabwe national football squad.

“The executive is due to meet on Monday 4th (of) January 2021 where the severity of the Covid pandemic and increased positive cases will be discussed.

The executive will also consult with the relevant Ministries and the Sports and Recreation Commission,” read part of the document.

The senior men and women’s field hockey sides as well as junior teams were preparing for their assignments coming up in the first quarter of the year in 2021.

They had started group training camps in November in anticipation of the Central-South Africa tournament for the seniors scheduled for February in Harare and the Under-21s have the Junior World Cup qualifiers in March in Ghana.

The squads had taken a break for the festive season, hoping to return for training camp in the first week of January.

Zimbabwe Handball Federation secretary-general, Edson Chirowodza, admitted although they have been cleared, they are going to focus on the national team for the Vision 2024 project to navigate the challenges in terms of resources as they cannot cater for everyone.

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“Our main focus is the resumption of the Vision 2024 team, which is well resourced in terms of meeting our protocols on safety of both players and officials. They will be tested (of Covid-19),” said Chirowodza.

The national association has indicated to their members that were to resume provincial activities, they have to apply to the national federation to help monitor the situation and avoid a situation where people resume activities without sticking to the Covid-19 guidelines.

Netball is also among team sports that have been approved. But the question remains, is the national association and clubs able to meet the costs if they are going to have group training and competitions?

Most of the clubs are funded by individuals although there are some that have corporate sponsorship.

National Athletics Association of Zimbabwe are in the process of planning a combined camp for juniors and seniors early in the year in preparation for the World Junior Championships and Olympic Games qualifying events.

However, director for coaching, talent identification and development, Lisimati Phakamile, said the unfortunate developments in the Warriors camp is a wake-up call.

“As an athletics association we really took this issue seriously and we had to check again on our own side whether the camp that we wish to have, we plan to have in the coming year, can go ahead. We will make sure that these camps are strict and the protocols and regulations are followed to the letter.

“If it means we call them off, we will call them off because the pandemic seems to be coming in and is coming in stronger.

“But if God is with us and we are allowed to carry on with our camps, we will definitely follow the Covid-19 protocols and rules to the letter; and make sure that all athletes, officials and everyone providing services to our teams is taken care of, is tested each and every time they move in and out of their training camps or bases.

“It is actually a wake-up call to the whole sporting fraternity in Zimbabwe to make sure that we do not take Covid-19 for granted. Covid-19 can kill and we need to stay safe as an association,” said Phakamile.

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Zimbabwe Rugby Union chief executive, Sifiso Made, said the focus at the moment is ensuring the safety of everyone and preserving lives and pointed out that it’s difficult to resume competition under the prevailing situation considering the costs to put players and everyone involved in a bubble.

He also pointed out that with people from different backgrounds it’s difficult to monitor and check on everyone involved regularly to ensure they are observing and following the guidelines and regulations.

HERALD