|Top left corner: Philip Shumba, Right top corner: Terry Madyauta, Centre: Hubert Fidze, Bottom left corner: Joe Kwangwari and Stephen Alimenda on the right bottom corner.|
Resumption of local football, activities have been received with mixed feelings by stakeholders who are calling for more action to be done towards assuring the safe resumption of action and for authorities to weigh options and assess the situation on the ground before making a final decision.
Recently, legislators pressed the minister of Sports, Kirsty Coventry, to initiate an immediate safe return of football and other sporting activities which have been on a halt for a year.
Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) and Premier Soccer League (PSL) have been pressured by stakeholders, and recently bowed down to pressure and applied for to the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC) for a greenlight to resume action.
The proposal will see PSL action getting the first nod to kick start ahead of other lower leagues and this will happen from the top league down to junior development but in different stages.
However, various stakeholders believe there is more to be considered and done to avoid a decision which may cause more harm than good to the whole fraternity.
TellZim News caught up with stakeholders who echoed their sentiments for the local football association (FA) to usher in a smooth and workable bio bubble concept just like in any other country across the globe.
Terry Madyauta (Sports Journalist)
From where I stand, I would want to believe that no one is prepared from clubs up to Zifa. Of cause there might have plans but these delays are a clear indication that things are not in their rightful place. I also think that while people advocate for the return of football, how will they want football to return? How would you want to foster the return of football when stadiums are in a pathetic state? The country’s stadia are not being maintained and have been heavily affected by the incessant rains which are still being received in the country and continue to pose a great threat.
As for the issue of not allowing fans in the stadia, this has a negative effect on teams. When sponsors venture into football sponsorship, they want to market their brands and realize a return. How then will these companies or corporates market their brands without fans attending matches, without proper broadcasting partners and proper organization of things? Without these, the advertising and corporate side of football is closed which will make it hard for football clubs to thrive.
Advocate Phillip Shumba (Benefactor and Administrator)
We all know that Zifa received a massive Covid-19 bailout package from Fifa in hard currency. The cardinal question clubs are likely to poise to Zifa is "Where is the Money?” Zifa against such a backdrop would be expected to finance the testing of players, supply all testing kits to all PSL clubs, finance the training of clubs and pay Covid-19 compliance officers, pay referees match fees, bail out clubs financially. Zifa does not have such finances and the moment Zifa fails to avail money for some of the above mentioned then the return of football in the country may remain a dream.
The issue of no fans will further cripple most of the PSL clubs. These clubs heavily rely on gate takings for survival. In Zimbabwe it is virtually impossible to run a professional club without revenue generated from gate takings. Surely a number of clubs may unfold since the clubs do not have alternative income generating sources. ZBC should not be allowed to enjoy a monopoly when it comes to coverage of these matches because competition is healthy for football to develop. In the past ZBC has on numerous occasions betrayed football fans by failing to beam live football matches due to technical hiccups. On rare occasions football has been beamed live the picture quality and sound quality have been very disappointing. Competition brings about qualitative products. Broadcasters should therefore be allowed to compete for the good of football and for the good of the soccer starved fans.
The proposed bio bubble concept is doomed to fail in Zimbabwe because our economy is in a sorry state, teams will struggle to meet the financial obligations associated with the otherwise noble concept. Teams do not have funds to book players into hotels overnight, so come to think of booking players for the anticipated four to five weeks. Lack of resources to effectively test players is another impediment, including the lack of laboratories to ensure efficient testing of samples.
Joe Kwangwari (Coach)
As a coach I know sport is too demanding when it comes to finances and looking at our economy it is still bleeding, it needs a long period to recover and considering this pandemic, we need a conducive environment for players and every stakeholder. From my own point of view, I think we need a lot of time to prepare financially. When it comes to the issue of fans, most clubs in Africa depend on gate takings so if no fans are allowed in the stadium, I can’t see more than 75 percent of the clubs surviving or going through the whole season, save for clubs which are financed by big corporates. It’s not going to be a surprise that we will see a premature end to the bio bubble which we all know demands more finances.
Our country is different from countries like South Africa where quite a number of companies are pumping funds into football. Clubs in the neighboring country select a sponsor of their choice, they don’t just take a poorly funded deal whereas in our country teams take anything which is put on the table because they have no choice.
Stephen Alimenda (Former Dynamos Captain)
On clubs it's a pity that it's been long without training as a group but hopefully the players were following their training program that they were given during this pandemic. On PSL and Zifa, we hope they have come with plan on paying referees, police and match day venues. If football is going to be played in empty stadiums, only few teams will manage to sustain since many teams do rely on gate takings. It would be good for us as players and fans are starving football so if ZBC can cover all the matches that will be good for our fans. I can't comment much on that because I didn't see what was written inside the bio bubble proposal, but all I can say is I hope that it will not dig much into clubs pockets since our clubs doesn't have enough monies to sustain or cover that.
Hubert Fidze (Masvingo United FC Club chairperson)
Preparedness, we are sitting at zero, hence, there is nothing talk about. We obviously need time to regroup in terms of the technical team and players’ identification. We are a community team which has no financial support at the moment and the little money we get is from gate takings. If football resumes and fans are not allowed to in the stadium then we are doomed. Unless the local community wakes up to our immediate and impromptu call for support, which I believe with the Covid-19 affected economy is a mammoth task, it’s a tough hurdle for us when D1 gets the nod to start training and playing games. This also speaks to the government and the corporate world to come onboard since financing the costs which come with the resumption of football is probably unaffordable at our level.