YOUTH, Sport, Arts and Recreation Minister Kirsty Coventry says they have given ZIFA a proposal for football to return with a bio-bubble concept to ensure all the clubs camp in a safe environment.
Football, which is the most popular sport in the country, has been on hold for the past six months owing to the coronavirus lockdown measures which resulted in the indefinite postponement of the 2020 Premier Soccer League season.
The game had been classified under “high risk” sports because of its high contact nature.
However, ZIFA made an application last week for exemptions in anticipation of the imminent return of international football with the Warriors set to resume their 2021 AFCON qualifiers in November.
Addressing a press conference on Monday, Sports Minister Coventry said her ministry and the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC) have given proposals for local football authorities that they have to follow for football to resume.
These include the use of a bio bubble format, which are requisite guidelines for the safe return to play, taking into consideration the health and safety of players, officials, fans and all stakeholders.
The aim of a bio-bubble is to keep participating teams in a set competition relatively isolated from the outside world so as to greatly minimise the risk of Covid-19 infection.
As a result, players are only permitted access to the ground and their respective hotels.
The bio-bubble format was successfully used by neighbours South Africa to conclude their PSL season while further afield it has been used by other competitions such as the English Premier League, the NBA and international cricket tours to England.
“We all know that soccer has been categorised as high risk but we have been working with the Ministry and SRC and our taskforce which is composed of sports doctors. We’ve come up with some ideas and proposals that we have now shared with ZIFA, the PSL and the women’s league and we are now asking for them to go and look that concept and ideas to see how viable it will be in terms of the resumption of some or soccer,” Coventry said.
She added: “It is based off the bubble concept that we’ve seen in the US with the NBA and we are quite excited but we are obviously leaving it to the technocrats, the people in charge of local soccer to tell us if it would be feasible for them and how we will all work together. I’m putting a bit of pressure on them to review (the proposal) with all their expertise and come back to us and hopefully by the end of the week or next week we will have another announcement with some very exciting news.”
ZIFA president Felton Kamambo expressed confidence that his board will give the thumbs up to the proposals put in place by the Sports Ministry and SRC to ensure football activities return.
“We are also happy with the proposal that the (ZIFA) board is going to look at… It’s quite an exciting document that we think will get the nod from our board, but the bottom line is football is back and we will soon be getting back to the (football) fields in the near future,” Kamambo said.
“After getting approval we will then sit down with the affiliates it’s up to each individual affiliate to come up with a date on their resumption so what we want from the Ministry is a blanket approval then PSL can sit down and workout their plan.”
Kamambo also hinted that the huge costs involved in resuming the league in the bio bubble means the competition format could be changed with a “mini league” format being mooted.
ZIFA made an application last week for exemptions in anticipation of the imminent return of international football.
The football authorities proposed that the Premier Soccer League begin mid-next month.