By Robson Sharuko
ZIFA have set either August or September as the months for the possible start of the domestic football season, pending authority from the Government, CAF and FIFA, in what could be a conversion, by default, to the calendar used predominantly in Europe.
CAF have also been realigning their football programme to fit into the August-May calendar, something which the Premier Soccer League here have been fighting for since Farai Jere became chairman two years ago.
Although the proposal by the top-flight league was rejected, amid concern from the lower leagues that they had not been consulted fully and the poor state of the stadia could complicate issues during the rainy season, it appears the change is now attracting growing support.
Already, the Division One clubs have said that, if the Covid-19 outbreak is contained, they will have no problems having their leagues starting in August this year.
The domestic football programme, which was supposed to start in March this year, has been paralysed by the Covid-19 outbreak which has also halted sport around the world.
The ZIFA leaders held an emergency meeting on Sunday and resolved that, should authorities give them the greenlight, local football will start either in August or September this year.
‘‘In its meeting on May 3, 2020, the ZIFA Emergency Committee also noted that other football associations were planning to resume football operations around August/September 2020 and has tentatively set this date as to when our leagues will commence should our Government announce the complete end of the lockdown any day before the envisaged dates,’’ the association said in a statement yesterday.
‘‘The resumption of football activities will also be done in consultation with CAF and FIFA.
‘‘For ZIFA, should the season begin in September, (this) will see us also aligning our football calendar with the rest of the world.’’
However, there could be changes to the global football calendar.
FIFA vice-president, Victor Montagliani, at the weekend hinted that moving the European football season to the calendar year, where the leagues start in February or March and are completed at the end of the year, was a “possibility to be discussed”.
He told Italy’s Radio Sportiva this was one of the possibilities they needed to look at in the wake of the damage inflicted by coronavirus and the need to ensure everything fits into the 2022 World Cup set for Qatar in November and December.
Montagliani is considered to be a very close ally of FIFA president Gianni Infantino.
“We have the opportunity because the World Cup in Qatar in 2022 will be played in November/December and that could be the idea,” said Montagliani, who is president of the CONCACAF confederation.
“Here in the Americas, the season is already played according to the calendar year, perhaps it is a solution that could also be used in Europe and Africa, it is a possibility to be discussed at national and continental level.
“It is not an idea to be discarded, it can be a solution in view of the next two years and this winter World Cup.
“We had already started thinking about how to set a new calendar from 2024, now with this crisis we need immediate answers.’’
The ZIFA leaders said they were confident football will resume soon so the game could play a big part in healing the nation which has been badly affected by the Covid-19 outbreak.
‘‘ZIFA is confident that football action will return soon to play its part in the healing and resuscitating our beautiful nation,’’ the statement said. ‘‘The threat posed by the virus is real and we advise all stakeholders to remain vigilant and patient as the battle against Covid-19 draws to an inevitable end.
‘‘ZIFA is indebted to many football stakeholders both institutional and individuals who have used their role model appeal to reach out to the public with messages of hope and advice on how to fight the pandemic with some going to the extent of raising financial and material assistance to fight the scourge. This show of unity is unparalleled and must be commended.’’
The ZIFA emergency committee also came up with packages to try and help domestic football which is in distress after being hit by the Covid-19 outbreak.
‘‘Further and as part of the resolutions, the Executive Committee also approved submissions from the finance committee and directed as follows:
i) ZIFA to pay on behalf of our affiliate members sportsman levy due to the Sport and Recreation Commission (SRC) for 24 500 registered athletes and officials. The disbursements to the SRC (Sport and Recreation Commission) to be done immediately.)
ii) It was also resolved that due to Covid-19 the top 80 referees to be paid an allowance of $2 000.00 each since some of them were not formally employed.
iii) Moreover, the Emergency Committee also authorised the disbursements of an Administration grant to all affiliate members to help mitigate the Covid19 effects. The quantum of the grant per affiliate is equivalent to the 2020 subscription fees paid or payable by the respective affiliate.
‘‘The grant will be immediately disbursed to all paid-up members and will be deducted from ZIFA administration operations budget for 2020. In order to ensure all affiliates benefit, those who have not yet paid their affiliation will have their grant set off against their dues to ZIFA at which point they will be deemed fully paid up. ZIFA hopes that the money, though not sufficient, will go a long way to assist the members.
‘‘The Executive Committee continues to pursue other means to alleviate the suffering during and post Covid-19 for all its stakeholders. There was also clarification, from the association, which said the relaxation by the Government of the lockdown conditions did not mean football in the country could resume.
‘‘The Zimbabwe Football Association would like to advise all football stakeholders that football activities remain suspended until further notice,’’ the association said.
‘‘As is the norm, the path to normalcy shall be derived from the policies implemented by the Government of the Republic and guidance from CAF and FIFA.
“The Association in supporting the Government decision notes that the only important issue at the moment is the safety and health of all football stakeholders and the nation as a whole. We derive confidence from Government’s containment measures which demonstrate that there is progress in the nation’s fight against Covid-19.’’ The Herald