PSL in huge dilemma over season kick-off

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Godknows Matarutse

SPORTS WRITER

matarutseg@dailynews.co.zw

©️  THE Premier Soccer League (PSL) is facing a huge headache on how to commence the 2020 Castle Lager Premiership season in the face of the global coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak.

Initially, the 2020 campaign was supposed to have kicked-off in March but there is no start date yet almost two months later after the novel virus created unprecedented chaos in all sectors of society.

While the Zifa Emergency Committee has provisionally set August/September as possible dates to start the season, the reading of what is needed to curb the spread of the virus, however, appears to make it impossible.

Recently, the government announced plans to allow some of the sporting codes deemed less risky to start preparing for resumption.

In other countries for instance England, authorities hope to restart and complete the season next month, with matches taking place behind closed doors while players and staff have to undergo rigorous testing regimes to prevent the spread of the virus.

The Bundesliga in Germany became the first top league to return to action while other top leagues such as the Serie A in Italy and Spain’s La Liga are hopeful of following suit with strict guidelines.

The same, however, cannot be said of local teams, who rely largely on gate-takings for survival due to lack of proper sponsorship.

Observing social distance in changing rooms will be a huge issue while accommodation for camping will also not come cheap for clubs.

“Following disruption of football activities due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Premier Soccer League is working on plans to ensure that we have a safe football environment once we are given the green light to resume matches by the government,” PSL spokesperson Kudzai Bare said yesterday.

“The PSL Sports Medicine Committee has been tasked to come up with protocols and procedures to be followed by all PSL clubs during football competitions in light of the football pandemic.

“The protocols will provide guidelines that will assist clubs with training and matchday procedures upon the resumption of football competitions.

“The PSL Sports Medicine Committee will work in liaison with club medical doctors. The draft procedures will be shared with the Sports and Recreation Commission, Zifa and other relevant stakeholders.

“These procedures will be continuously reviewed and updated in accordance with the general health situation in the country and recommendations from the health authorities.” Ngezi Platinum Stars chairperson Silence Gavi admitted it’s not going to be easy for most clubs to conform with the health protocols taking place in other countries.

“While we all long for the return of competitive football, we must be realistic about how much clubs can do around the issue of player, official, and spectator safety in light on Covid-19,” he said.

“Clubs already have stretched budgets and the stringent conditions that go with restarting the league programme will definitely be a further strain on the clubs. Take testing for example, a single RDT costs US$25-30 while a PCR test costs US$65 in the private sector.

“Tell me which club can afford these before training and before matches at all times? Another question is frequency of testing, how often is adequate to ensure acceptable safety for players and officials? What’s the reliability of the tests and what’s the duration of validity of the tests?

“Resuming will not come easy for most clubs but I believe in the end we have to have in place a plan that is both workable and safe to allow the return of our beloved sport.”

Harare City chairperson Alois Masepe concurred with Gavi saying: “We don’t know where we are really at as a country yet with the pestilence. Soccer is a contact game with lots of breathing and heavy spitting around.

“How will clubs benefit from playing in empty stadiums. Surely, you don’t need to be an accountant or businessman to see that clubs will be worse off playing in empty stadiums than not playing at all. If clubs are not going to benefit from gate-takings, why then risk our players from getting infected.

“In our circumstances, the key issue is not money or the game of football,  the all-important factor concerns are the lives and health of our footballers. The whole country is in a state of lockdown because the government is valuing lives of its citizens.”

Dynamos chairperson Isiah Mupfurutsa says there is need for due diligence before any decision can be made.

“A lot of work needs to be carried out first. It is not a secret that for football to be played it’s going to require a lot of money which is out of reach of our clubs,” he said.

Highlanders and Black Rhinos players tussle during a pre-season friendly match in March before sporting events were suspended due to coronavirus.

 

 

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