The Sunday Mail
DOMESTIC rugby, just like all contact sports in the country, might still be a long way from resuming action, but there was something to smile about for the game last week after the Zimbabwe Rugby Union (ZRU) announced a Covid-19 relief package for national team players.
The union has received 5 000 euros from Rugby Africa, which they resolved to channel to buying food hampers and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for players.
While Government, through the Sport and Recreation Commission (SRC), has allowed low-risk sports such as athletics, horse racing, polo and cricket to resume, action in contact disciplines such as football and rugby remains suspended.
This has meant a more frustrating period on the sidelines for clubs, players and non-playing staff.
ZRU, however, felt it was imperative to parcel out whatever aid it gets to the players.
In an era where the union could have opted to use the funding for administrative purposes, ZRU president Aaron Jani and chief executive Sifiso Made have been lauded for putting the plight of national team players above everything else.
A taskforce to ensure the procurement of hampers and PPEs and their equitable distribution has since been put in place.
“Due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the restrictions imposed by it regards sporting and in particular rugby everywhere, World Rugby, through Rugby Africa, decided to assist its member states by availing a relief fund to assist its member unions,” said Made.
“The Food and Medical Relief Fund has now been received by the Zimbabwe Rugby Union. This assistance is intended to aid our rugby community with basic food hampers and medical assistance such as the supply of protective equipment to help in the fight against Covid-19. 5 000 euros is the total amount that has been availed.”
The union’s recent virtual board meeting agreed to select three board members to assist the executive on how best to purchase and distribute the hampers.
“The board agreed on at least one member from the Northern region (Mr Tinashe Shamu), TAG TRUST and another from the Southern region (Mr Knowledge Moyo) . . . be part of the team that would assist the Exco (executive committee). The board also resolved that the chairperson of Women’s Rugby in Zimbabwe (Miss Abigail Mnikwa) be the member responsible for feedback to the ZRU board,” he added.
As the funds were limited, a resolution was made to prioritise the national teams.
Jani said the gesture by Rugby Africa showed the dynamism in the new leadership at the helm of the continental body, which in the past has been accused of being indifferent to the challenges faced by African unions. He also remains confident that more support will be channelled to the game as the union continues to seek ways to mitigate the fallout from the coronavirus.
“We have a new and dynamic leadership in Rugby Africa and this gesture is testimony of things to come.
“We are certainly grateful and the money will go a long way in alleviating the dire situation that was brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic. Most of our players are not employed and some come from impoverished communities. We also have ladies in places like Mbare, Chitungwiza, Mabvuku and some players in Beitbridge and Hwange — we will target these and ensure they get something, no matter how small.
“Any amount of assistance goes a long way and we are thankful to Rugby Africa and our mother body, World Rugby,” Jani said.
A former Zimbabwe international, Jani has also been leading a crusade to look into ways of helping local players, especially after their playing careers, as he believes that one of the major challenges facing sporting associations across the country is that of medical cover for their athletes and personnel.
“This is a problem that is prevalent in all sporting codes. We must find a lasting solution to the issue of pensions and medical cover for all current and former players. We need products that are tailor-made for the sporting fraternity,’’ he added.
The problems arising from the Covid-19-induced lockdown are challenging sporting disciplines to find new normal ways of surviving as there are fears that when action resumes, fans might be reluctant to attend — that is if they are allowed back to the stadiums.