By Sports Reporter
THE ZIMBABWE Football Association (ZIFA) has committed to providing funding for Covid-19 testing for local players and officials as the football governing body prepares for return of the popular sport after a seven-month hiatus.
The Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC) last week wrote to ZIFA, advising the association that football, which had been shelved since March due to the coronavirus outbreak, had been allowed to return in a mini-league format using the bio-bubble concept where players, support staff, and match officials will stay isolated from the outside world.
With government insisting on a bubble tournament, there has been uncertainty on who will foot the various bills with accommodation and testing being top of the major expenses.
A number of PSL clubs had expressed concern over how the bubble would be conducted in an era where teams are struggling financially.
However, ZIFA, in a statement on Wednesday, finally ended the uncertainty after revealing they would provide the funding for Covid-19 tests and referees ahead of the envisaged mini-tournament that will involve top-flight teams in both the men and women’s game.
“We are grateful for the government’s decision to allow the country’s most-followed sport to be played, albeit in a staggered manner because the football ecosystem is critical to the well-being of many individuals and families in Zimbabwe.
“ZIFA is committed to leading the safe return of football by funding the testing of players and paying referees’ fees. We are still engaging the government on how other cost centres can be funded to ensure that the return of football happens flawlessly.
“We are optimistic that the Government and other stakeholders will collaborate with us to allow the safe return of football,” ZIFA communications manager, Xolisani Gwesela said.
ZIFA said they are hoping teams would have returned to training by Monday after which they will give clubs a six-week preparatory period before any competitive games are played.
“The bubble tournament could not have come at a better time because it will give our Warriors technical team the opportunity to select a competitive squad for the 2021 African Nations Championship (CHAN),” said Gwesela.
ZIFA’s decision to fund the testing and referees’ allowances leaves the PSL with the task of finding sponsorship for the accommodation, prize money, and allowances for the participating teams.