JUST two weeks into the restart of the Zambian Super Division, the Football Association of Zambia have decided to bring the campaign to a premature end because of challenges being posed by growing numbers of Covid-19 cases.
The decision was made at a FAZ executive committee meeting on Thursday after they noted an increase of coronavirus infections among teams’ officials and players.
The challenges faced in Zambia should provide the leaders of the Zimbabwean Premier Soccer League and ZIFA of the challenges they are likely to confront should they decide to get the domestic season underway.
Forest Rangers were the first team to announce that a total of 28 members tested Covid-19 positive before their first match against Zanaco.
Zesco United and Buildcon each confirmed two cases while a recent announcement by Napsa Stars, that 19 members had contracted the virus, was a testament of how the virus had spread among the Super Division fraternity.
The league resumed on July 18 after having been abruptly closed in March following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.
FAZ spokesperson, Sydney Mungala, said the organisation decided to end the league early due to concerns raised by health authorities, adding that a recent surge in cases has put a strain on the country’s healthcare system.
A sizeable number of Zimbabwean footballers ply their trade in the Zambian Super Division.
Following an executive committee meeting held on Thursday afternoon, the Football Association of Zambia has decided to bring the 2019/2020 season to an early closure,’’ FAZ said in a statement.
“The decision to close the league has been necessitated by the concerns that the Association has received from various stakeholders, especially Government through the Ministry of Health, particularly from Zambia National Public Health Institute.
“The recent surge in numbers of the Covid-19 occurrences has put a strain on the health system across the board.
“FAZ has been monitoring the situation and also been constantly engaging the authorities on the possibilities as the numbers continue to surge.
“One of the major challenges has been the long delays in securing test appointments and results by most of the clubs in the league, after being tested, which meant that certain matches could not be played due to the inability of clubs to produce results when called upon to do so.
“Regrettably, with the surge in numbers, it has meant that the flow of results has been slower.
“Unfortunately, despite signing up to observe the guidelines provided by the Ministry of Health, the compliance levels by most of the clubs have also not been satisfactory.
“The ZNPHI noted some lapses that they brought to our attention and the clubs affected.’’
A number of the clubs, said FAZ secretary-general Adrian Kashala, were in breach of the guidelines needed to ensure the safety of everyone was guaranteed.
“Among the breaches noted by ZNPHI from our clubs were failure to manage the isolation of players and officials who tested positive, unrestricted access to camping sites, failure to observe social distancing and lack of sanitisers and disinfectants at designated places.
“Arising from the following challenges, and in view of the high incidents of new Covid-19 cases, the FAZ executive has been left with no choice but to bring the league to an early closure.
“FAZ has since provided a roadmap on the completion of the current league and the resumption of the 2020/2021 season.
‘’The current league will be concluded on August 6, 2020 after all the teams have played their Week 27 round of matches.
“Accordingly, champions will be declared for both the FAZ MTN Super Division and FAZ Eden University National Division One. FAZ will ensure that all outstanding issues around fixtures are cleared to avoid controversy.
“The lower leagues and women leagues will also be allowed to wind down their season by playing an equal number of games. FAZ will provide the roadmap in due course.’’
The Zambian football authorities also discussed the scheduled start of next season. “Furthermore, the executive has decided that the 2020/2021 season will commence on October 17, 2020. The ABSA Cup will be played as a precursor to the 2020/2021 Season after the Charity Shield.,’’ read the statement.
“Prior to the resumption of training for the 2020/2021 season clubs should observe all health protocols during training.
“Testing will be conducted at regular intervals in order for FAZ and Ministry of Health and Ministry of Sport to monitor Covid-19 infection levels amongst players and officials.
“FAZ wishes to thank everyone who has supported its efforts to resume the league especially the patron His Excellency Edgar Chagwa Lungu.
“We will continue adhering to the health guidelines as we conclude the current season and commence the next one. We are alive to the fact that we have to live with the reality of the Covid-19 under the New Normal.’’
While the Zambians are closing shop, for now, the South Africans are going ahead with plans for the resumption of their football programme.
Most of the Zimbabwean foreign-based footballers are part of the Supa Diski show.
Yesterday, they announced the Nedbank Cup semi-finals will get the 2019-20 PSL season back underway on August 8, and according to the league, both matches will be played at the venue on the same day.
The he league confirmed that both Mamelodi Sundowns and Bidvest Wits as well as Bloemfontein Celtic and Baroka, will play at Orlando Stadium.
According to the statement, the match between Celtic and Baroka will kick off at 14:00 with Sundowns and Wits battling each other for a place in the final at 19:00.
This is a ‘neutral’ venue for all the four remaining teams as they were earlier this week placed at different stadiums for the remainder of the season.
Sundowns were allocated the Dobsonville Stadium as their new venue for home matches while Wits will play their home league matches at FNB Stadium.
Celtic will be based at Tuks Stadium in Tshwane with Baroka adopting the Bidvest Stadium as their home for the next four weeks. — Sports Reporter/Goal.com
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