Zimbabwe: Start of Domestic Premiership Delayed Until, At Least June, As Battle to Contain Coronavirus Intensifies

Travellers undergo security checks and coronavirus screening on arrival at Entebbe International Airport on February 6, 2020.
18 March 2020

THE start of the 2020 Castle Lager Premiership football season has been postponed following Government's intervention as the country intensifies its fight against the threat posed by coronavirus.

President Mnangangwa yesterday announced a ban on all public gatherings of more than 100 people for the next 60 days as the nation battles to contain the pandemic.

"Government has decided to postpone, curtail or cancel public events, gatherings and activities," he said.

"In that respect, Government has postponed the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair, ZITF, all national Independence celebrations previously planned, and pending international sporting fixtures, until the threat of coronavirus recedes.

"All these activities will resume as soon as we are satisfied that our nation is no longer at risk."

The Confederation of African Football also confirmed, as revealed by The Herald yesterday, that the 2020 African Nations Championships, set for Cameroon next month, had been postponed.

"A delegation made up of members of the CAF Medical Committee carried out an inspection visit to Cameroon for an update of the preventive measures being taken, as part of the preparations for the Total African Nations Championship (CHAN), in light of the evolving nature of the coronavirus (COVID-19) across the world," CAF said in a statement.

"They also had discussions with the World Health Organisation representative in Cameroon during their mission which lasted March 14-15, 2020.

"Their observations include;

Preventive measures have been taken to control entry into the country and health facilities are ready to deal with the current situation

The Cameroonian authorities have given all the guarantees for appropriate measures to ensure the smooth running of the competition

"However, despite the relatively low rate of the spread of COVID-19 on the continent at the moment compared to other parts of the world, it is difficult to predict its evolution in the coming days.

"The restrictive and precautionary measures taken by various Governments to prevent the spread of the virus has made it increasingly difficult for people to move from one place to another.

"Given all these challenges, and in order to avoid risking the health of players, officials, partners and fans, CAF in consultation with the relevant Cameroonian authorities (Local Organising Committee) has decided by mutual agreement, to postpone the CHAN initially planned for 4-25 April 2020 to a later date.

"CAF would like to thank the Cameroonian authorities for their commitment and urge them to continue preparing for this competition which will take place as soon as conditions permit."

Already, CAF have postponed the 2021 AFCON qualifiers, which were set for next week, and the Women's Under-17 and Under-20 World Cup Africa qualifiers scheduled for the end of this month.

The Warriors were due to meet Algeria in back-to-back matches while the Young Mighty Warriors were scheduled to travel to Ethiopia next week for the Under-17 World Cup qualifiers.

On Monday, COSAFA also postponed the Women's Under-17 Championships scheduled for Mauritius in April.

Euro 2020 tournament was postponed by a year yesterday. The postponement provides a chance for European leagues to use the June/July window, should the situation improve, to complete their domestic leagues.

UEFA said it wanted to avoid "placing any unnecessary pressure on national public services" of its 12 host countries, as well as helping allow domestic competitions to be finished.

"We are at the helm of a sport that vast numbers of people live and breathe that has been laid low by this invisible and fast-moving opponent," said UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin.

"It is at times like these, that the football community needs to show responsibility, unity, solidarity and altruism.

"The health of fans, staff and players has to be our number one priority and in that spirit, UEFA tabled a range of options so that competitions can finish this season safely and I am proud of the response of my colleagues across European football.

"There was a real spirit of co-operation, with everyone recognising that they had to sacrifice something in order to achieve the best result."

Copa America, set for June and July this year, has also been postponed.

The Castle Lager Premiership, which was set to announce their sponsorship package after signing with their sponsor any day from now, will have to delay the start of their programme. Yesterday, the league was dealt another blow when ZIFA advised them they had homologated six stadiums, which do not include any Harare venue, to host top-flight league matches.

Seven clubs -- CAPS United, Dynamos, Harare City, Black Rhinos, Yadah, Cranborne Bullets and Herentals -- play their matches in Harare.

The indefinite postponement should give a window to the central government, and local authorities, to complete renovations being carried out at the National Sports Stadium, Rufaro and Gwanzura.

In a letter addressed to PSL, ZIFA also stated the conditions which should be met for re-inspection.

"The ZIFA hereby inform your esteemed office that the following have been provisionally homologated by the First Instance Body for 2020 season -- Gibbo. Vhengere, Barbourfields, Luveve (and) Mandava.

"For re-inspection of other stadiums, the procedure is as follows: (a) recommendations from the FIB stadium report should be adhered to (b) pictures and progress report should be sent first (c) FIB will assess whether to send an inspection team or not," read the letter.

Yesterday, PSL spokeperson, Kudzai Bare, said they would be guided by the Governmen's intervention.

"The PSL season has not started yet but we stand guided by the President and the Government.

"We will be announcing our programme in due course," said Bare.

ZIFA spokesperson, Xolisani Gwesela, said they will abide by the Government position.

"AS ZIFA, we are law abiding and respect our Government. We will comply with Government directives and the interest of public safety," said Gwesela.

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