By Eddie Chikamhi and Ellina Mhlanga
After exactly a year of inactivity on the domestic football scene, Dynamos and Highlanders are set to bring life back into the game when they clash in the President’s Independence Day Trophy.
The two giants will light up the stage as part of Zimbabwe’s 41st Uhuru celebrations on April 18.
Football is closer to making a full return, across the board, if the Premier Soccer League and the Women’s Soccer League are successful, with their resumption scheduled for later this month.
This comes a few days after the Sports Commission spelt out the finer details of the resumption of domestic football, which had been in limbo since March last year, following the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Uhuru celebrations match, however, will be played behind closed doors under the Government and World Health Organisation’s Covid-19 prevention, and containment, protocols.
The announcement was made by Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister, Monica Mutsvangwa, at the post-Cabinet media briefing, on Tuesday.
The theme for the 2021 Independence Anniversary is “Zim@41 —Together, Growing our Economy for a Prosperous, Resilient and Inclusive Society.”
“Two most popular clubs, Dynamos and Highlanders, will compete for honours in the President’s Independence Day Trophy, under strict WHO protocols and national guidelines, to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 virus,” said Mutsvangwa.
ZIFA spokesperson, Xolisani Gwesela, confirmed preparations were already underway, in conjunction with the Sports Commission, for the game.
The Castle Challenge Cup match, between Highlanders and FC Platinum, was the last domestic match played in Zimbabwe, in March, last year.
However, authorities were then forced to freeze all the sporting activities in the country, as part of measures to contain the pandemic.
But, recently, Government, through the Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation Ministry, gave the greenlight for a resumption, in line with the provisions of Statutory Instrument 81 of 2021, as read with Statutory Instrument 200, of 2020.
Football is set to restart in a gradual process, starting with the Premier Soccer League and the Women’s Soccer League.
The Sports Commission have told ZIFA the return of the lower leagues will depend on the successful return, of the two top-tier leagues, in the country.
In a letter sent at the weekend, the Sports Commission reiterated the resumption of the lower leagues will depend with what happens with the top-flight leagues.
“Please note that the approval is a gradual resumption of training, and local competitions only, and you are required to make separate individual applications for Regional, Continental and International tournaments, to the Minister, through the SRC,’’ read the letter from SRC acting director-general, Sebastian Garikai.
“The training activities shall, in addition to the requirements specified in Statutory Instruments 81 and 200 of 2020, World Health Organisation guidelines on safe resumption of sport, your approved protocols, national legislation and policy directives, Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), International Federation protocols relating to the prevention and containment of Covid-19, be subject to the following conditions:
All competitions (local, regional, continental or international) must be separately applied for 30 days before the event and approved by Minister of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation through the SRC. Regional, continental and international tours shall further be authorised by the Minister of Health and Child Care:
To begin with PSL and Women PSL training for one month
PSL and Women PSL competitive leagues to resume after 30 days of training
ZIFA to provide fixture schedules, with venues and designated Covid-19 compliance officer, for each venue.
Men’s and Women’s Regional Leagues to resume after assessment of the adherence to protocols, by PSL and Women’s League, and upon separate application by ZIFA.”
The SRC said violation of the protocols will result in withdrawal of authority, among a cocktail, of other sanctions.
“Please note that Covid-19 preventative, and containment measures, must be observed at all times and SRC expect full compliance by all your members,’’ Garikai wrote in his letter.
“Enforcement officers will monitor compliance, with the stipulated protocols, and any violation shall result in the withdrawal of the authority, and other sanctions, as provided by law.
“All enquiries should be directed to the SRC in writing.’’
Gwesela said after receiving the letter, on Tuesday, they were now consulting with their affiliates, on the way forward.
“We received the letter yesterday (Tuesday) from the Sports and Recreation Commission, outlining to us what we have to do, the steps to be followed for the resumption of football in the country,’’ he said.
“And, as per previous correspondence, we have been authorised to begin preparations for the Premier Soccer League, and the Zimbabwe Women Soccer League, in adherence to SRC’s standard operating procedures.
“We are currently seized with this matter, and we are consulting internally, both the Premier Soccer League and Zimbabwe Women Soccer League, and we will be providing feedback to the Sport and Recreation Commission in due course.
“We will also advise the public when we intend to start the leagues for the Premier Soccer and the Women Soccer League.’’
Some of the conditions set include the PCR/Rapid Antigen testing for all players, officials and club staff at least 48 hours to commencement of training.
When competitive leagues resume, testing should be done for all players, officials and club staff, at least 48 hours, prior to commencement of competition and friendly matches.
Thereafter, testing should be after every 14 days, whichever is earlier
All facilities (stadia) to be disinfected before each game
No spectators allowed
All facilities to be zoned in line with CAF guidelines and testing done as per the zones
All facilities, such as showers and changing rooms, to be disinfected regularly and register kept.
PPEs, in the form of face masks, tissues, wipe and alcohol-based sanitiser, must be available for distribution to athletes and members of the associated staff
All teams to keep a logbook of all athletes, and associated staff entering and exiting the stadia ,and keep such logbook for inspections by SRC enforcement officers at any time, within 30 days from the date, the event to which it relates took place.
No liquor or food to be sold at venues, expect for water. The Herald