Main News Sports

Football faces unertain future

Felton Kamambo

Eddie Chikamhi

Senior Sports Reporter

ZIFA president Felton Kamambo says the local authorities should devise ways to save the domestic football industry as prospects show that Zimbabwe could go for a second year without top-flight football being played because of the coronavirus.

The domestic football industry is facing an uncertain future in the face of the deadly coronavirus pandemic which prevented the start of the topflight league last year.

The chances of the game returning as expected in March this year suffered another big blow following the suspension of all sporting activities by the Sports Commission recently in response to the announcement of additional lockdown measures by the government.

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However, Kamambo yesterday told The Herald that the football industry needed to be assisted as thousands could lose their livelihoods.

“As far as 2021 is concerned, ZIFA and the Premier Soccer League are committed that football must come back.

“The lockdowns have had a serious impact on the survival of the clubs and the welfare of the people that they employ.

“The clubs have lost income and the sponsors have not been able to get the mileage due to them because of this prolonged inactivity.

“It’s an unhealthy situation all round. Right now we are working with the assumption that we still have competent players but we really don’t know if these guys can still be able to reproduce their best form because most of them have not kicked a ball in organised competition for over a year,” said Kamambo.

The Premier Soccer League was supposed to come back next month after the Government gave ZIFA the greenlight to resume activities under strict guidelines.

But the privilege has been withdrawn following the spike in coronavirus cases in the country which led to new lockdown measures. Football is regarded as a high risk sport under the country’s coronavirus lockdown measures.

“Obviously we need to support government efforts to contain the diseases but when the situation opens up a bit we will not have to continue crying about the pandemic when other countries around us are playing football week in week out.

“We have to bear in mind that coronavirus could be with us to stay and we must learn to live with it. We have to look at how the other countries are making it possible to play football in the midst of this pandemic and try and take a leaf from that.

“There are even bigger cases in South Africa but they are playing. Tanzania have not really stopped. Top flight football is an industry that we really need to protect because it employs hundreds, if not thousands of people.

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“According to our planning and the request that we have made to the Sports Commission, we expect our league to start in March for the Premiership and Division One leagues. Division Two, Regional women’s football and the provincial Under-15s should start in April.

“Obviously, all the health protocols will be followed. Initially we want to start without the fans and then we will assess the situation. But this second wave has started at a critical moment when our Premiership teams should be involved in the pre-season training. So we will continuously assess,” said Kamambo.

The restart of football will be expensive because of the health guidelines that need to be strictly adhered to curb the spread of the virus.

The game was supposed to return late last year with a two-week bubble tournament but it failed to kick off because of lack of funding.

“Sometimes we come up with plans but these plans have to be complimented by funding. This is the biggest challenge that we usually face but as ZIFA we are committed to give a helping hand to resuscitate the industry.

“For instance, we have pledged to meet the medical costs and to pay the referees fees for the restart of the game. I know it may not be much but that’s the little that we can do. Hopefully, the government and the corporate sector will also be able to come on board,” said Kamambo.

HERALD