Senior Sports Reporter
PREMIER Soccer League chairman, Farai Jere, says the elite clubs are ready for action and cannot afford to go another year without playing football.
Jere believes the football leaders have put in place satisfactory groundwork for the safe return of the game.
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.
The CAPS United boss issued a passionate plea, during a radio programme on Tuesday morning, when he highlighted have encountered huge losses and some were on the brink of collapse because of the prolonged inactivity.
Jere 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.
He said they did not encounter any problems, when they were preparing for the bubble tournament, which had been proposed by the Sports Commission.
“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.
“It’s quite a solid document. What changed in January was the new variant that came and the Government said we are coming back to zero so that we can relook at our things because of the new variant.
“So, 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.
“Football is needed in a nation like Zimbabwe because we are a football nation. Our people are missing it so, as PSL, I can tell you that I feel pity.’’
Last year, the SRC came up with an intial approval for top-flight football to be played in a bubble.
However, that did not materialise, because of funding constraints.
ZIFA spokesperson, Xolisani Gwesela, confirmed they have made a fresh application for the resumption of football.
He said the association were aware of the huge financial demands and appealed to the corporate world to chip in.
Among the conditions of play, the clubs would be expected to test their players regularly, constantly fumigate their training and playing facilities, conduct health checks, ensure sanitisation and employ a compliance office who enforces the health protocols.
“We have re-applied to the Sports Commission, for the resumption of football in the country,’’said Gwesela.
“We intend to resume football, in a staggered format, starting with the top-flight Premier Soccer League.
“We have proposed that training begins on February 22 and the season in early March.
“Indeed, a lot of money is needed, for us to resume matches, because the pandemic has created very abnormal circumstances.
“We appeal to corporate world, and individuals, to partner football so that we ensure a safe resumption of the beautiful game.’’
According to the draft PSL proposal, the concept of playing behind closed doors requires a lot of financial resources but with no immediate returns.
The PSL want to restart football in a competition format that will cut costs and make it affordable for all teams.
Jere believes the prolonged inactivity was taking a huge toll on the clubs and the players.
“Clubs are suffering, the PSL is suffering because they are carrying huge debts,’’ he said.
“I am owner of a club and I can tell you how much, in terms of salaries, we are paying every month.
“It’s very painful for these clubs. What was at risk when this thing (Covid-19) started, which is very common across the nations, is the fans not to come to the stadium.
“The players are not high risk, if all protocols are in place, all these guys, even in Europe, they are catching it and shaking it within three to four days and they are back in training.
“We are not here to cry for the fans to come to the stadium. We can do live streaming for them, they can watch football at home, they have things to talk about, away from the day-to-day problems.
“That’s the beauty about football, it’s a sport for everyone and, in our country, mostly the poor find solace in discussing football.
“But, we depriving those guys of that opportunity because of issues that some of us are not aware of.’’
He said football was a key industry in this country.
“We are appealing to the stakeholders to have a heart, to feel for the PSL clubs, and what they are going through,’’ said Jere.
“It is employment, which is being created by these guys that are carrying this burden, and right now clubs are busy signing players.
“Last year it was an investment that went down the drain.
“Signing players, giving them money, others got houses but, at the end of the day there was no activity.
“We need to have referral points. We could right now be referring to say no ‘when we gave you the greenlight to start football, there were some problems, we started having so many cases, spreading through football’.
“But, that’s not the case. The world over, even the FIFA president (Gianni Infantino) is saying ‘all, athletes should not jump the queue for vaccination’. Why?
“He is basing on the facts on the ground that are scientifically proven that these guys, who are playing football all over the world, they are catching Covid-19 and, in a few days, they shake it away and are back in training.’’