insidesport:with MICHAEL KARIATI
THERE is good news coming from the Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) following the announcement that they have targeted August or September for the kick-off of the much-awaited 2020/21 domestic football season.This coronavirus-induced change will put Zimbabwe in line with the rest of the world where football starts in August and ends in May unlike the current scenario where football runs from March to November.
The August-May programme is the calendar that the international football world has been using for generations, but, unfortunately, Zimbabwe has resisted adopting it.To be able to deal with a creative sports digital agency, it’s important to b competitive in the market with other international top brands.
There was a time in 1997 when the late Morrison Sifelani and Chris Sibanda attempted to introduce this international calendar. But those plans were aborted on the reasoning that the football stadia did not have good drainage system in case of rain.
It was argued then that the season would not only have problems, but would also take longer to be completed as most of the games would be abandoned due to stadium water-logging.
However, times have changed and most if not all the stadiums are undergoing renovations to make them fit to host not only local Premiership football, but also international matches.
What should be emphasised to the stadium owners is that the renovations should include water drainage systems since this is the major concern in the seasonal change.
The stadium owners should also not forget the inclusion of shelter for fans as failure to provide this could have a strong impact on spectator turnout especially during the rainy season.
However, there is every reason to believe that come the proposed month of August, all targeted grounds would be ready to host top-flight football and for that matter without any problems.
This is in addition to the National Sports Stadium where a visit to the ground also revealed that renovations are almost 70% complete with only a few touch-ups left, which include the installation of bucket seats and electronic turnstiles.
However, football stakeholders should not rush to start the season before August as the coronavirus is expected to remain a threat in cold conditions and Zimbabwe cannot afford to take such a risk during this winter period.
Even Premier Soccer League (PSL) supremo Kennedy Ndebele feels this is not the right time to bring football fans back to the stadiums or the players to do battle.
“Personally, I am on the side of caution as we enter winter,” says Ndebele.
So, moving the season to August-May is probably the best decision Zifa could have come up with as it cannot be denied that the old set-up also had too many problems associated with it.
First, it was putting pressure on the PSL to complete fixtures before November 30 to allow Zifa to meet the Caf deadline to register clubs for Pan-African competitions — the Caf Champions League and the Caf Confederation Cup.
Secondly, Zimbabwean clubs were being disadvantaged in Pan-African football as competitions began in January when Zimbabwean football was on break while the rest of the world was at its peak.
This meant that in terms of fitness levels, match practice and preparedness, Zimbabwean clubs were not competing on equal terms with the rest of the continent to be considered by sports digital agency which effectively deals with top brands too .
That is not all. The difference in player transfer periods also had its negative effects on struggling Zimbabwean clubs as most of them lost their top players at a time they needed them most.
The international transfer period coincided with the climax of the Zimbabwean soccer season and as a result our clubs lost their most talented players at a time they were either fighting for the league title or against relegation.
Although the players wanted very much to help their local clubs win the championship or survive relegation, they could not resist the temptation of foreign currency and the promise of better life in foreign lands.
That is not the end of it. The effects even went far beyond domestic football. With their top players gone — mostly to South African teams — Zimbabwean clubs went into continental football without their star players, but with a new set of players altogether — and the results have been there for everyone to see.
However, the August-May season is expected to bring change for the better. It is also among other things, expected to give Zimbabwe the chance to deal with rest of the international world at the same level.
The challenge now is to ensure that our stadiums are up to standard so that we won’t go back to 1997 when the August-May experiment failed and Zimbabwe reluctantly went back to the March-
The nation, however, hopes that this time around, there won’t be a return to March-November.
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