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It’s still a guessing game

insidesport:with MICHAEL KARIATI

THE coronavirus pandemic has hit the world with sport being one of the hardest paralysed industries.

All over the world sporting activities are either on suspension or are a subject of discussion as to when they will return with no solution in sight in other parts of the world.

Even the 2020 Olympic Games which were set for Tokyo, Japan, next month have been called off and suggestions are that they might be held in 2021 or be cancelled altogether.

In other countries, there is a chance that sport might not return at all this year and not even early in 2021 as Covid-19 continues to wreak havoc around the world.

Fortunately, for Zimbabwean football, Covid-19 has not affected the game in the country in the manner it has done to the Spanish La Liga or the English Premiership.

Football was halted in those top European leagues when the respective seasons were heading towards their climax while in Zimbabwe the players had not yet kicked a ball with the exception of Highlanders and FC Platinum who met in the season-opening Castle Challenge Cup.

Initially there were hopes that the 2020 Premier Soccer League campaign would start during the month of March as has been the norm, then it was assumed that the game would roar into life in April, but we are now in the middle of May, and nothing has happened.

The Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) have announced that they are looking at August or September for the season to resume.

Events on the ground seem to suggest that this is possible if global trends are to be followed.

The German Bundesliga resumed yesterday, while the South Korean League is already in motion after Jeonbuck overcame Suwon 1-0 last week.

The Turkish Premiership is scheduled to resume in June while dates have already been set for the Uefa Champions League and the Europa League where Manchester United are still in the run for the less prestigious Europa League title.

However, there is a big difference in terms of survival between European clubs and those from this part of the world that following the empty stadium method might not work in Zimbabwe.

Some of the top clubs in Europe like Sevilla in Spain, Napoli in Italy and Marseille in France not mentioning Barcelona, Juventus, and Manchester City can survive playing in empty stadiums unlike clubs in Zimbabwe.

Those European clubs have huge sponsorship and massive television rights and can survive without gate entry fees, which is not much to them compared to their TV rights returns.

In Zimbabwe, however, it is different as even the most supported teams, CAPS United, Dynamos, and Highlanders, rely heavily on crowd attendance to be able to pay their players and travel for the next game.

This makes it very difficult for those who make decisions to say when football will resume as long as this scourge remains.

Already Bosso and Makepekepe have lost their NetOne sponsorship and would be relying on crowd attendance for revenue to enable them to fulfil fixtures and also meet other obligations.

The newly-promoted teams too, Hwahwa and Tenax cannot survive without gate takings as they struggled to pay their $208 000 affiliation fees to play in the Premiership.

Fine, everywhere people are asking when football will resume, but the question is: Is Zimbabwe ready for football under the current Covid-19 environment? The answer is No.

Zifa’s August or September suggestion remains the prime target, but that too might not be possible if the situation remains as it is right now.
The truth is that it would be unwise for football to restart in Zimbabwe if it is to be played in empty stadiums as the game would lose its entertainment value.

Whatever the case, football fans are still looking forward to an entertaining show should the season finally resume. This comes after the massive player recruitment that took centre stage when the season will supposed to begin in March.

So far, however, it still remains a guessing game as to when exactly football would be played.

l For your views, comments and suggestions, email mkariati@gmail.com or WhatsApp on 0773 266 779.

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