Zim Football Return Edges Closer

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By Sports Reporter

THE long-awaited return of football, among some of the so-called “high risk” sports codes, is edging closer after the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC) revealed it has presented the respective sports associations on the protocols that need to be followed for all sporting codes to resume.

Sports deemed to pose the highest risk of spreading the coronavirus such as football and rugby were initially excluded from a list of the sport codes that were given the green light by the government recently to resume activities.

After the government’s decision to relax the lockdown measures, 48 “low risk” sport codes including golf and cricket were approved to resume activities but under strict Covid-19 protocols and taking into account national and World Health Organisation guidelines.

The exclusion of football and rugby, two sport codes which are very popular with locals, caused a huge outcry.

However, it appears that football could be given the go-ahead to resume soon.

Local football has been in limbo since last year when the government banned all local sporting activities as a way to control the spread of Covid-19.

SRC board member Allen Chiura, who chairs the sports regulatory body’s Covid-19 committee said they had begun the process of expediting the return of the sports.

“So, I’m the chairman of the SRC Covid-19 committee, we have had the rather unpleasant job of stopping people from playing sport and now we are in the pleasant position of seeing how we can get people back to playing sport safely,” Chiura said in a press conference conducted via Zoom on Monday.

“We have just sent out letters to all the National Sports Associations for medium and high-risk sports codes asking basically to look at the protocols we have put in place for their resumption, and they are going to get back to us to tell us if they have the financial and administrative capabilities to follow through with those recommendations.

“That being the case, we will be able to resume high risk sports and it’s going to be in a gradual phase.

“We’ve got to remember that as the SRC our job is to ensure that we do not create any events that could become super spreader events. Covid-19 is still here with the third wave coming despite what people may think.

“After most sports associations expressed reservations over the use of the bio bubble concept due to the high costs involved, the SRC said the proposed bio-bubble concept has been scrapped.

“We realised that the bio bubble concept was unsustainable financially for the associations so that will no longer be the case. We will, however, still adhere to strict health protocols in terms of WHO guidelines.

“Testing at given intervals for the athletes and officials will still be mandatory. As SRC, we are lobbying for our athletes in the medium and high risk to be vaccinated upfront so that we can resume with confidence,” said Chiura.

SRC chairman Gerald Mlotshwa, board members Nigel Munyati, Karen Mutasa, Titus Zvomuya and Allen Chiura, addressed a virtual press conference on Monday and emphasised that the onus was on individual National Sports Associations (NSAs) to prove they could financially sustain their activities.

Mlotshwa said a final decision on the possible resumption of the sporting activities was expected from this Thursday.

“The Commission has since written to the various sport associations. As the SRC, we feel it’s high time the country returns to full sporting activities.

“We hope by end of the week, the sporting associations would have responded then we will approach the Minister (Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation) and say these high-risk sport codes are now ready and it’s our recommendation that they be allowed to resume.

“It may not necessarily be all of them, but we are looking at them holistically to say let’s deal with you at one go and we move along those lines,” said Mlotshwa.