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from WELLINGTON TONI in Harare
HARARE – THE curtain appears to have come down the Zimbabwe Premier Soccer League (PSL) season even before a ball has been kicked.

This as financially-crippled clubs are unlikely to raise funds required for mandatory coronavirus (COVID-19) tests as proposed by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) before leagues across the continent can resume.

A COVID-19 test, also known as a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) exercise, is a luxury in Zimbabwe. It costs US$65 (R1 100) at private institutions.

This means an average squad of 30 players and officials must fork out about $ 1 950 (about R33 180) per week to fulfill the compulsory tests.

Private centres are charging steep prices in a country where the crisis-strapped government is struggling to provide the essential service.

Football authorities expressed fear that the majority of the clubs would struggle to raise the money needed for PCR tests.

Dr Edward Chagonda, who heads the PSL medical committee, said they had presented a document to the league regarding compliance with CAF protocols but the costs involved could mean the season is scrapped off.

“We followed the guidelines as provided by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and CAF. The rest is up to the PSL and ZIFA (Zimbabwe Football Association) to decide whether the clubs have the capacity to conduct those mandatory tests once or twice a week,” Chagonda said.

Kudzai Bare, the PSL spokesperson, said the health of players, officials and fans were their priority hence discussions around the start of the league would only be done when the “right time” came.

The ZIFA board, led by its president, Felton Kamambo, was scheduled to meet this past weekend to discuss a number of prevailing issues, chief among them the resumption of the topflight league, COVID-19 financial relief from CAF and world football governing body, Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), as well as the postponement of the Africa Cup of Nations finals to 2022.

Zimbabwe’s league traditionally resumes in February or March and runs until November.

Local clubs’ financial crises are well-documented and have deepened amid the COVID-19 and a lockdown imposed in April.

Crowd-pullers, Highlanders, have agreed on salary cuts with their players. Its British coach, Mark Harrison, returned to the United Kingdom after the Bulawayo side lost its major sponsorship deal.

Players at CAPS United clashed with management over months of unpaid salaries.

A luxury bus recently donated by former Mamelodi Sundowns star and former CAPS United player, Nyasha Mushekwi, to the Harare side triggered debate after it was spotted loaded with maize, apparently for distribution to players and staff struggling to make ends meet during the lockdown.

– CAJ News

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