Zimbabwe: Fresh Challenges for Chibuku Cup

THE scheduled return of the Chibuku Super Cup is likely to run into a wave of fresh troubles with clubs, based in communities under lockdown, set to face a cocktail of challenges.

Teams like ZPC Kariba, and the Group Two games being played in Bulawayo, where the cluster is headlined by giants Highlanders, are likely to be affected by the localised Covid-19 lockdown.

The tournament is set to return, after the Sports Commission partially lifted the ban on domestic football, which had once again been halted for about a week, following the surge, in Covid-19 cases, in the country.

The City of Kings, where four teams have been sweating it out in one of the clusters of the tournament, has effectively been put under lockdown, ahead of the resumption of the tourney.

Highlanders, Chicken Inn, Bulawayo City and Bulawayo Chiefs have been playing their matches at Barbourfields in Group Two.

Cabinet approved that, at least three districts in the city, which are considered Covid-19 hotspots, be placed under localised lockdowns, with security details being deployed, to enforce the regulations.

Nkulumane, Emakhandeni and Northern Suburbs have been sealed.

Suburbs covered by the Nkulumane clinical district include Nkulumane, Pelandaba, Sizinda, Nketa, Emganwini and Barham Green.

Emakhandeni clinical district covers Cowdray Park, Njube, Luveve, Magwegwe suburbs, Pumula suburbs and Emakhandeni.

The northern suburbs include Mpopoma, Mzilikazi, Nguboyenja, Makokoba and the city centre.

Interestingly, most of the players and officials involved in the Chibuku Super Cup games, come from these areas.

ZPC Kariba were the first to be affected, after the Government placed the resort town under lockdown, two weeks ago.

However, the team still managed to travel for their match, against CAPS United, which ended in a goalless draw.

Premier Soccer League spokesperson, Kudzai Bare, yesterday said authorities will be looking into the matter.

"I am sure we will need to consult on that matter. We will, obviously, be guided by the advice we get from the PSL Medical Committee and the health and football authorities," said Bare.

Ngezi Platinum could face the same predicament after Mondoro was added to the list of Covid-19 hotspots.

The Chibuku Super Cup was put on hold, a few days ago, after Government banned all gatherings, and sporting activities, as part of measures to halt the rising cases of the Covid-19 infections, in the country.

But, ZIFA, as the game's mother body, were given permission to resume the tournament, under strict health guidelines.

Bare yesterday announced they had tightened Covid-19 protocols ahead of the expected resumption of the Chibuku Super Cup.

She said clubs should provide Covid-19 results, before they could be allowed to resume training.

The PSL clubs will only resume training to complete in Chibuku Super Cup games after conducting Covid-19 tests in the presence of recommended doctors.

"Following the green light given to resume the Chibuku Super Cup, the PSL has informed all PSL clubs to conduct Covid-19 testing, under the supervision and direction of the PSL Sports Medicine Committee, before resuming training sessions.

"The Chibuku Super Cup fixtures will only be released, after testing has been done, and results submitted to the PSL.

"Matches shall be postponed if there are seven or more reported cases at the same period of time.

"We urge all the clubs to adhere to the Covid-19 guidelines, and protocols, to contain the spread of the virus.

"We are grateful to the Government of Zimbabwe, the Sports and Recreation Commission, ZIFA and all our partners for enabling us to resume play."

The Chibuku Super Cup returned as a zonal competition, this year, with clubs placed in four pools based in Harare, Mutare, Zvishavane and Bulawayo.

The games have been played behind closed doors and it appeared the PSL had met with success after preventing a Covid-19 explosion in the tournament, as initially feared.

According to statistics, only three positive cases have been recorded in the PSL since the Chibuku Super Cup started last month. PSL clubs were religiously adhering to the Covid-19 protocols during the first round matches.

Part of the SOPs included the regular testing of teams, and strict compliance to Covid-19 protocols, in the absence of a bio-bubble.

All PSL clubs have been producing PCR or rapid Covid-19 tests certificates, which have a 48-hour window, before their matches.

Referees, match officials and journalists, who cover the Chibuku Super Cup, have been presenting Covid-19 test certificates, done within 48 hours, to have access to the venues. All clubs have also appointed compliance officers and each group had two doctors responsible for enforcing compliance. The stadiums have been disinfected before, and after each game, and clubs have been adhering to the practices.

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