Hopes of soccer’s early return fade every day   

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Aaron Nhawu 

SPORTS WRITER

nhawua@dailynews.co.zw

HOPES of local football’s early return amidst the Covid-19 pandemic are fading with each passing day, leaving most clubs coaches frustrated. 

This comes as the government last week introduced a 30-day hard lockdown with a high possibility of it being extended unless Zimbabwe flattens the curve.

By the time the current hard lockdown lapses in the first week of February, it will be over 10 months of no local football action.

The 2020 season, which was supposed to start towards the end of last March, had to be scrapped.

There was some hope that the game would finally resume when the government granted Zifa and the Premier Soccer League (PSL) permission for top-flight teams to resume training towards the end of last year.

It was hoped the action would finally return early this year under a bio-bubble and a mini-league format but rising new infections and deaths from the novel virus have made this impossible.

Most local teams were supposed to resume training last week but the government announced the new lockdown and a ban on all sporting activities.

While local football is in limbo, most leagues in the region in countries like South Africa, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, Botswana and Mozambique are already underway or expected to kick off next month.

CAPS United coach Darlington Dodo hopes there will be some dose of good news when the government and health authorities evaluate the situation when the current lockdown ends.

“We would rather be safe from Covid-19 than push for football to return and lose lives; let’s see how it goes.

“It’s still early, probably after the current 30-day lockdown is over, something might happen,” Dodo told the Daily News.

Chicken Inn coach Joey Antipas said the resumption of football this year depends on how the government deals with the virus and it will be hard for the game to push for an early return.

“We leave everything in God’s hands. It depends on the surge of Covid-19 positive cases, if it slows down, then there is a chance.

“Zifa pulled the wool over our eyes by getting us back into training knowing fully well that they did not have the capacity to organise a bio-bubble mini tourney last year.

“It takes a lot of resources and money to have that type of tournament. It is difficult to motivate players to train knowing that there is nothing to play for ― all we can do is hope that something happens in 2021.

“Last year, we can call it a disaster. With coronavirus ravaging the world all I can say is, let’s fight to survive and hope things will get better for us all,” Antipas noted.

Black Rhinos coach Herbert Maruwa said the safety of players and staff is crucial at this stage. He said any hopes of football’s early return is highly unlikely at this point.

“We are in the dark, Covid-19 is killing people at the moment; we need to make sure that our nation is safe first. Football is our life but safety comes first,” he said.

Zimbabwe has passed the 20 000Covid-19 cases mark, with latest figures from the Health ministry showing that the cumulative infections since March last year now stand at 20 499 while 483 have succumbed to the virus.

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