‘Zifa is risking players’   lives with Malawi trip’

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Nigel Matongorere 

SPORTS EDITOR

matongoreren@dailynews.co.zw

ZIFA’s poor planning for tomorrow’s friendly match between the Warriors and Malawi poses significant risks to the health and careers of local players, the Daily News can report. 

This comes as the Footballers’ Union of Zimbabwe (Fuz) has urged the government to pull the plug on the trip which has exposed Zifa’s shambolic and amateurish administration skills.

The Warriors are scheduled to take on the Flames at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre tomorrow afternoon with a squad made up largely of local-based players that last played a competitive match last November.

A number of players originally on coach Zdravko Logarusic’s roster for the encounter pulled out after Zifa sent their invitation letters to clubs after the two-week deadline.

In a last-ditch effort to save tomorrow’s game after Logarusic had threatened to quit his post, Zifa scrambled to assemble a new squad made up of at least nine locally-based players.

This is despite the fact that due to coronavirus (Covid-19) restrictions all local teams were barred from training in March after the government declared a nationwide lockdown.

“The health and safety of players is not negotiable. According to the Return to Play Protocols in normal football settings, players need a full pre-season training programme which is about six to eight weeks and for those whose leagues have resumed at least three weeks of high intensity group training is required before resuming play so that players retrain optimally football specific endurance, speed, strength and coordination.

“Thus, the duration, frequency and intensity of training sessions should gradually increase, considering the potential temporary immune system depression within the Covid-19 emergency period.

“Players carry the greatest risk and social cost in the context of return to play scenarios.

“At the same time, high performance sports and intensified workload require a maximum amount of sport specific training and medical assistance. The absence of any insurance plan makes this even worse,” bemoaned Fuz in a statement yesterday afternoon.

As a result of the chaotic nature of the preparations leading up to tomorrow’s game, the player’s union now wants the game scrapped altogether.

“The low levels of preparedness by the association in relation to this match thus leaves our players at high risk of injuries, fatigue and other career-threatening problems.

“As Fuz, we wish to make an appeal to the authorities to cancel this game for the goodness of our players and find another solution which does not leave our members susceptible to health problems.

“Let’s not continue normalising abnormal situations and setting a wrong precedence due to lack of planning,” Fuz added.

After announcing the makeshift squad, Zifa had announced that the team was expected to leave for Blantyre by road yesterday.

However, the team was still in Harare last night after it emerged the association was now frantically trying to book flights to Malawi this morning.

“We have noted with great concern that Zifa has made arrangements for the team to travel by bus for a distance which is more than 600km one way, it should be noted that for the local-based players they have not trained for more than eight months and the foreign-based have travelled long distances only to be subjected to more travelling.

“All kinds of travel can take a toll on health for reasons ranging from dehydration to exhaustion which can contribute to decreased performance, players accuracy and reaction time and increased chances of making errors that can cause injuries to them,” Fuz said.

The purpose of tomorrow’s encounter against the Flames was for Logarusic to fine-tune his squad ahead of next month’s 2022 Africa Cup of Nations Group H qualifiers against Algeria.

But as things stand, only about four players making the trip to Malawi will be in the Croat’s plans for those two matches against the Desert Foxes.

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