The Sunday News
Ngqwele Dube, Sports Correspondent
CALLS for the local football season to align to the international calendar continue to grow with more stakeholders saying the football family should take advantage of the disruption caused by the coronavirus (Covid-19) to delay the start of the action on the domestic front.
The domestic season is not due to start until early June following a directive banning gatherings for 60 days by President Mnangagwa from 17 March to combat the spread of the highly infectious Covid-19. Members of the football family felt they should take advantage of the delay and implement the change which was rebuffed by the Zifa councillors in 2018 after the Premier Soccer League had proposed the move following Caf’s change to its inter-club competitions dates to align with the August to May season.
Zifa regions have been the most vocal in rejecting the PSL’s proposal voicing concerns over lack of proper infrastructure for football to be played over the rain season. However, officials from the regions have mellowed opening up to the season shifting.
Zifa Northern Region board member, Stanslous Nyachowe said while previously there had been objections it was inevitable the league would have to follow the Caf calendar and the Covid-19 situation had presented the perfect opportunity.
“Understandably in the situation that we face, the health and safety of all those involved in the game is of paramount importance, changing seasons is something that will always be lurking as it has to be done sooner or later. I personally believe while the coronavirus situation is affecting us negatively, it brings the advantage that we will start closer to August enabling us to easily align the season even officially from next year. This year we might be forced because of the long layoff but we can make it official beginning next year. We have remained stuck in the March to November season while most of the leagues across the world have crossed to August to May next year and I think it is time that we move ahead with the times,” he said.
Nyachowe said the challenge that remains is the state of infrastructure and if its conducive to host football matches during the peak of the rain season. He said stakeholders have to work around fixing the stadiums while the game is being played.
Central Region chairman, Stanley Chapeta also felt the time was right to shift season dates though forced by the situation.
“I think the situation allows us so we should take advantage of it and make the change. For us the only concern we have is about the players’ welfare during this period as most of them rely on the bonuses and allowances they accrue when the season is on for income. We hope clubs will find a way to retain the players in the game. In terms of stadia, I feel work will be done while we play because there is unlikely to be any improvements made if we only talk about it,” he said.
Zifa Matabeleland South chairman, Nkosilathi Ncube, however, was of the view there was wide consultation that needed to be done before the change is made. He said stakeholders such as sponsors and stadium owners have to be engaged to come up with a holistic decision.