The Sunday Mail
FIFA have begun planning for the resumption football activities by sharing a risk assessment tool with the 211-member associations, six continental confederations and other stakeholders.
However, games would only start after health authorities and governments consider it safe.
According to FIFA.com, the risk assessment tool has been developed in conjunction with the World Health Organisation (WHO), UEFA, the European Club Association, FIFPRO, the World Leagues Forum and European Leagues.
“It includes a list of mitigation measures that aim to reduce the overall risk of mass gatherings contributing to the spread of Covid-19, as well as indications for individual and group training by football teams,” said FIFA.
The local Castle Lager Premiership have already begun taking steps to ensure safety when football eventually resumes.
“The Premier Soccer League is working on a plan to ensure that we have a safe football environment once we are given the green light to resume matches by the Government.
“The PSL Sports Medicine Committee has been tasked to come up with protocols and procedures to be followed by all PSL clubs during football competition in light of Covid-19 pandemic.
“The protocols will provide guidelines that will assist clubs with training and match-day procedures upon the resumption of football,” said PSL spokesperson Kudzai Bare.
However, the risk assessment tool is being shared together a document on FIFA medical recommendations, which was developed by the FIFA Covid-19 Medical Working Group that was established on April 16.
The working group is made up of the two FIFA medical leads, a medical/scientific representative of each of the six confederations and external consultants.
The WHO and the FIFA Medical Committee also contributed to the document.
The aim of this joint effort is to consider the health of all participants in footballing activities, the risk assessments and the factors that need to be in place in order for football, both at professional and amateur level, to resume safely.
The recommendations are also meant to be implemented in conjunction with international and national guidelines on public health and mass gatherings.
Football governing bodies are being encouraged to liaise with the relevant public health authorities and to undertake a comprehensive risk assessment to determine whether it is safe to proceed.
The important guiding principle is that the resumption of footballing activities should not compromise the health of individuals or the community.
Screening and Testing
FIFA is also pushing for screening and testing of all professional football players.
It is envisaged that testing and screening would build psychological confidence within football teams.
The guidelines recommend that the first test has to be conducted 72 hours before footballing activities resume to prevent false negatives (asymptomatic carriers of the virus).
The second test has to be conducted before the first training session begins.
Only football participants who test negative will be allowed to participate in footballing activities.
Meanwhile, an agreement on proposed changes to the local season calendar continues to be elusive.
The football season, which normally runs between March and November, has been shelved as the country battles the coronavirus.
There have been suggestions to switch to the internationally preferred August-May calendar, especially after the ZIFA Executive Committee made the proposal in a meeting held early this month.
The proposed changeover is yet to get a buy-in from all the stakeholders, including some lower division leagues whose facilities are not compatible with the new season, especially during the rainy season.
Some Premier Soccer League governors, including Harare City chairperson Alois Masepe, are open to idea of clubs playing Cup games up to the end of the year and then resume the league next March, as per tradition.
It is against this background that some governors are now lobbying for the re-introduction of the ZIFA Cup, which will be played on a regional basis to cut travelling costs.
“That (ZIFA Cup) was a proposal we made to the league’s administrators.
“This situation has to be dealt with holistically. We cannot talk of a season changeover for the PSL and ignore Division One, Two and Three, which are feeder leagues to the top-flight.
“Promotion and demotion is interlinked, and my worry is that if we were to change, what would happen to the lower leagues whose stadiums are virtually unplayable in the rainy season,” Masepe said.
ZIFA have been buoyed by a cash injection from FIFA (US$500 000) through the Forward Programme 2.0.
Another US$200 000 is expected from CAF as part of a relief plan to ease the financial burden on the African football community.
With ZIFA having resisted calls to give some of the funds to affiliates such as the PSL, some stakeholders have now suggested the association should use part of that money to reintroduce the ZIFA Cup.
ZIFA communications and competitions manager Xolisani Gwesela was reluctant to comment on the ZIFA Cup proposal at a time “when football is still banned”.
“There has been no discussion on that (ZIFA Cup), though it is something that is good. In any case, anything to do with the return of football is a matter of Government policy, CAF and FIFA,” said Gwesela.
The season changeover, he added, is still a proposal and not “cast in stone”.
“Still the issue has to go to congress for ratification,” he said.
“Our various standing committees are seized with the issue.
“The Competitions Committee and the Football Medicine Committee are liaising. They are having virtual meetings on the roadmap.”
ZIFA, who have a board meeting this week, are expected to expedite the roadmap.
South African Premiership teams are expected back in training in June, while the Zambia FA is expecting their top-flight league to resume during the same month.
Angola’s prospects of getting their 2020/21 Girabola campaign underway on time in August have improved after the country’s government allowed a return to all training for team sports from June 24.
Malawi, who alongside Mozambique and Zimbabwe are the only nations in the COSAFA region yet to switch to the August-May season, are moving swiftly towards a return to action.
The Malawi Football Association’s executive committee was expected to meet yesterday to discuss a roadmap produced by that country’s FA special task force on Covid-19 and the competitions committee.