The Sunday News
THERE is now a huge possibility domestic football could return, in one way or another, this year.
Yesterday, the Government gave the biggest hint the national game could be played this year.
The sport’s leaders have now been tasked to look at various proposals, including the feasibility of the game being played, in a secure “bio-bubble” environment.
One of the possibility could be having a mini-league, this year, as the first step towards the resumption of the game.
Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation Minister, Kirsty Coventry, yesterday said the Government remained committed to go the extra mile to give ZIFA the institutional, and technical support, they need for the safe return of football.
The national game, which has been classified under the high-risk sport codes, has been on hold since March under the national lockdown measures meant to curb the spread of Covid-19.
But ZIFA last week applied for the resumption of the game in anticipation of the Warriors’ return to international football, before the end of the year.
Premiership kings FC Platinum are also expected to begin their CAF Champions League campaign next month.
Coventry yesterday said her ministry had looked at the application from ZIFA and have made some few proposals, which they hope to be incorporated into the health and safety guidelines, prepared by the Premier Soccer League Medical Committee.
The Minister addressed a media conference which was graced by Sports Commission chairman, Gerald Mlotshwa, Sports Commissioner, Nigel Munyati and ZIFA president, Felton Kamambo.
ZIFA chief executive Joseph Mamutse, and his PSL counterpart, Kenny Ndebele, also graced the occasion.
Coventry said the Government remained keen to assist the football authorities, in every way possible since sport, particularly football, was part of the heart and soul of the nation.
“As the ministry responsible for the resumption of sport, we all know that soccer has been categorised as high risk,’’ she said.
“But, we have been working with the ministry and SRC and the taskforce, which also comprise of sports doctors.
“We have come up with ideas, and proposals, that we have now shared with PSL, ZIFA and the Women’s Soccer League.
“We are asking for them to go and look through that concept, and those ideas, to see how viable it will be, in terms of resumption, of some of our soccer (activities).
“It is based on the bubble-concept that we have seen in the US with the NBA and we are quite excited but, obviously, we are leaving it to the technocrats and the people in charge of soccer to tell us if it will be feasible for them and how we will all work together.
“So, I am putting a bit of pressure on them to say that if they can review, with all of their expertise and come back to us, hopefully by end of next week, will be able to have another announcement with some very exciting news.
“I think we all know that sport, especially soccer, is the heart and soul of our country so, I hope, this will bring some much-needed mental relief for the country in the near future.’’
The “bio-bubble” concept, proposed by the ministry, has been successful in many countries where it was applied.
The concept, where players, officials and critical staff are isolated from the outside world after testing negative to minimise the risk of Covid-19 infection, needs resources to implement.
“That is where we are asking for everyone to be a little bit patient, because those are the things that we are all discussing right now,’’ she said.
“How will it work, how will the modalities work?
“There are a lot of questions, in terms of the concept, what will this be like, how much will this be, is this even feasible?
“We have to have those discussions and that’s why I was saying if you give us this week, to have those discussions; come up with an affirmative plan and idea that has got buy-in from everyone around the table, then we will be able to give everyone a breakdown of how we think it will work.
“What it would need, in terms of financial investment or financial support.
“So, that is sort of the second step. Right now, we are still all in that first step. Everyone, I think, has the same goal around the table.
“How do we allow and bring some relief to our players?
“But, not just our players, how do we bring that hope and that pride back to our players and our country and how do we give our country some form of relief in terms of mental relief from Covid-19?
The ministry is waiting for a technical report from ZIFA on the progress made in the renovations of the country’s stadia to host competitive games.
ZIFA president, Felton Kamambo, was upbeat about the imminent resumption of football, following the response from the Government.
“The first step is approval. Once we get that, we have some leagues that are already there,’’ he said.
“The ministry and SRC have come up with some proposals, so we will look at it in conjunction with our league.
“We are happy with the proposal. The board is going to look at it. At the same time, we are also happy that life is coming back to normal.
“To some of us football is life.
“What we have been missing is now coming back and I hope it will be exciting as well.
“I think it’s an exciting document that I think will get the nod from the board.’’
Football has resumed in some parts of the continent. Tanzania, Zambia and South Africa have led the way by concluding the remaining games from the previous campaign and are now tackling the new 2020/2021 season. Tanzania started their new season last week and South Africa will follow suit in the coming month.