THE Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) yesterday cleared the first hurdle towards the resumption of local football when they paid all costs for coronavirus (Covid-19) testing of Premier Soccer League (PSL) clubs, the Daily News can report.
Following almost eight months of inactivity, the government recently gave Zifa and the PSL the green light to resume football activities in a phased manner.
The games must also be played in a mini-league format while the teams are housed in a bio-secure bubble.
The Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC) emphasised that the top flight league as well as the Women’s Soccer League can resume activities in a phased manner amidst this coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
The authorities also emphasised that the association needed to finance all the testing and running of the bubble as well as the mini-league.
Setting up everything to ensure the bubble would be a success is estimated to cost local football at least US$1 million.
The usually cash-strapped Zifa had no excuse of failing to bankroll these activities since they received a total of US$1,8 million from both Fifa and Caf as Covid-19 Relief Aid.
Zifa yesterday took a giant step by releasing funds for the testing of players and club officials to enable them to start training sessions.
PSL chairperson Farai Jere confirmed to the Daily News yesterday that Zifa paid all costs related to the testing of players including equipment that include face shields, gloves, plastic aprons, face masks, sanitisers, thermometers and overalls, among others.
“I can confirm that Zifa has fulfilled their promise and paid for the testing of all PSL clubs. This will obviously see teams start training whilst working on the resumption of competitions.
“This is exactly what we have been talking about, we want football to come back and we are grateful to the association for keeping their word.
“What they have done is that they have also paid for all the equipment to be used by each club for testing,” Jere told the Daily News.
It was not immediately clear when the testing is going to take place.
Once testing has been completed, teams will require at least six weeks of pre-season training which means that the mini-league will likely commence at the end of December or early next year.
Initially, Zifa had hoped clubs would finally resume group training last Monday but that failed to materialise since players and officials were not yet tested.
The PSL is now expected to come up with a detailed testing programme that will see 50 individuals per club including players, coaches, technical staff and officials getting tested.
It is only after that exercise that teams can finally be allowed to commence group training sessions.
While the PSL had hoped to have led the testing exercise, a week ago, newly-promoted Bulawayo City FC announced that three of their members had tested positive for the virus.
Amakhosi players, coaches and support staff were tested by the Bulawayo City Council Health Department on October 15 with the results only coming out last week.
Yesterday, the club announced a further two positive cases among two members of staff — bringing the total to five cases.
While Zifa has cleared the first hurdle of providing funding for testing and acquired the necessary materials, the lack of match venues is another challenge currently bedevilling local football.
In Harare there are at least seven teams — Dynamos, CAPS United, Yadah FC, Black Rhinos, Herentals, Cranborne Bullets and Harare City — that have to contend with only a single homologated venue which is the National Sports Stadium.