FUZ blasts ZIFA over Warriors’ road trip to Malawi  

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By Sports Reporter

THE Footballers Union of Zimbabwe (FUZ) has slammed ZIFA for not prioritising the health and safety of national football team players amid a chaotic build-up to Sunday’s international friendly with neighbours Malawi.

The Warriors were scheduled to leave the country for Blantyre Friday afternoon by road on the backdrop of poor preparations which saw nine locally-based players being included in the squad without having trained or played competitive football in over seven months.

FUZ, which is a representative body for Zimbabwean footballers, called for the cancellation of the Warriors friendly against Malawi on Sunday arguing this posed serious injury threats to players.

The Desmond Maringwa-led body expressed concern over the failure to adhere to “Return to Play Protocols” that require players to have a pre-season training programme of between six and eight weeks before resuming play.

“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,” the players’ body said.

“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.

“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 6-8 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.”

Warriors coach, Zdravko Logarusic was forced to call up local players who have not been in action for almost a year after several international clubs refused to release their players following a delay by ZIFA in sending invitation letters to the players’ clubs.

FUZ said players carried the greatest risk and social cost in the context of return to play scenarios.

The player representative body said high performance sports and intensified workload require a maximum amount of sport specific training and medical assistance which is unlikely to be offered in this case and the absence of any insurance plan makes it even worse.

“We have noted with great concern that Zifa has made arrangements for the team to travel by bus or air for a distance which is more than 600 kms 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,” read the statement.

The Warriors were expected to leave for Malawi by road on Friday afternoon with a lightweight squad of 18 players. Their preparations ahead of the game have been shambolic.

All the players named in the squad on Thursday will make the road trip with the exception of Khama Billiat and Alec Mudimu who are expected to fly to Blantyre from their respective bases.

The road trip usually takes about eight to 10 hours.

It will be a throwback to their infamous tour to Malawi, for their 2017 AFCON qualifier, when Callisto Pasuwa was the head coach.