Time no longer  on our side: Zifa . . . association now expediting return to play protocols  

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Godknows Matarutse
SPORTS WRITER
matarutseg@dailynews.co.zw

THE Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) appears to be racing against time in their efforts to engage government on how football can resume in the wake of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

All over the world, the novel virus has had a devastating effect on the sporting industry but other federations have worked on ways of getting their leagues up and running again.
Here in Zimbabwe, football has been in limbo since March when the government banned all sporting activities in a bid to curb the spread of the virus.
However, Zifa’s inertia in coming up with and submitting their return to play protocols to the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC) and the government could come back to haunt them.
This comes as the Confederation of African Football (Caf) recently announced dates for this year’s 2022 Afcon qualifiers and African Champions League.
The Warriors will be back in action between November 9 and 17 when they take on Algeria while FC Platinum begin their 2020-21 African Champions League campaign on November 20.
Speaking to the Daily News yesterday, Zifa board member Bryton Malandule admitted time was no longer on their side as they needed to move with speed to engage the government immediately.
“Zifa and PSL are working with the medical committee led by doctor (Edward) Chagonda. We are working on something to try and ensure that football is played again,” Malandule told the Daily News.
“As you are aware that Caf released fixtures for Afcon qualifiers as well as the African Champions League and as it stands we have a window in October where we are trying to arrange a friendly match for the national team.
“Our representatives in the Champions League need to start training immediately if they are indeed going there to compete. It’s something that we are urgently looking at to engage the SRC to give them our Covid-19 protocols for football to resume.
“But obviously we will stand guided by the government; for now we will be looking at playing before empty stadia among other things.
“We will wait to see if our proposal will be accepted by the ministry of course; our medical and competitions committees are currently looking into that.”
Malandule said they were hoping the urgent attention of the matter is enough for the government to grant them the go ahead, so football can resume immediately.
“From a technical point of view, we are concerned because teams need to start training and be ready to play. For instance as for the national team, we need a friendly game,” he said.
“We cannot just go and expose players to a game-situation without proper training. It’s not just a matter of fulfilling fixtures but competing. Our national team coach is new and has not conducted training with the players yet so he needs proper preparations.
“The same applies to FC Platinum; they need to start preparing now. As a matter of fact I’m engaging my fellow board members to ensure that we expedite the process.
“This is an urgent situation. We need to realise that sport is a huge business and we need to do all we can to start playing again. We are hoping the ministry will be on our side. We will furnish them with the details on how urgent this situation is.
“We hope they will allow us to start playing football again. If football does not return we hope they would be able to give us a special exemption so that teams can compete in continental competitions.
“As for continental competitions, we don’t have an option, we need to follow what Caf says or else we will be sanctioned. And this is exactly what we will tell the government when we eventually meet, hopefully by end of this week.”

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