Zimbabwe: Legislators Add Voices to Football’s Debate

LEGISLATORS yesterday took turns to question why the mass sporting disciplines, especially football, were not resuming in this country.

They questioned officials from the Ministry of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation and the Sports Commission when they appeared before the portfolio committee of sport.

The parliamentarians said they wanted to know why football, which was being played in many parts of the continent, still remained suspended, in this country.

The Ministry’s permanent secretary, Thokozile Chitepo, had presented a report on the preparedness of her Ministry, in terms of sport resumption, explaining some of the health guidelines they were following, in granting sport codes the greenlight.

But, after the presentation, Chivi North Member of Parliament Mathias Tongofa, who was chairing the committee, opened the floor.

“As Member of Parliament, who represent sport, we get a lot of people asking us ‘when are we resuming sport?.’

“Can we get dates for sporting disciplines, when is football, when is rugby starting?

“Do you have dates, with you, so that the public may be aware,” said Tongofa.

Another legislator, Nyaradzo Mago, also asked what the ministry were going to do to about the local top-flight league, since football continued to be classified as a high-risk sport?

Zvimba East legislator, Tawanda Tungamirai, asked why it appeared only football, in this country, remained halted, when other nations had found a way of resuming their national game.

“Soccer is being played all over the world, so why aren’t we playing?

“You said people will be tested, three days before or 14 days before competitions or training, so who will monitor that it’s being done,” he said.

Another legislator, Memory Mbondiya, asked whether the vaccination programme, which the Ministry were mulling, in which athletes could be made a priority, would be mandatory?

Chitepo said her Ministry were lobbying for athletes to be given priority on the vaccination programme.

“Athletes and athlete support staff are exhausted, with months of compulsory mask wearing, social distancing, curfews and lockdowns,” she said.

“In view of this, the administration of a vaccine is now the most powerful way to curb the disease.

“The Ministry is, therefore, lobbying the National Covid-19 taskforce, for athletes and officials, to be given a priority, on the national vaccination programme.

“When vaccinated, the body’s immune system will be activated, to recognise the invading pathogen, and produce antibodies.

“This means that, if the person is exposed to the dangerous pathogen in the future, their immune system should respond immediately, to destroy it with antibodies, thus protecting against disease invasion.” The director of sport, in the Ministry of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation, Eugenia Chidakwa, said no dates had been set, so far, for the resumption of the sports codes, which were considered high-risk, by the Government.

“There are processes, and procedures, in line with lockdown regulations,” she said.

“We still have to submit the national sport associations’ plans to the Ministry of Health, who in turn approves, after consultations with the Covid-19 taskforce.”

Sports Commission acting director-general, Sebastian Garikai, said it was wrong to suggest sport had not resumed in the country.

“Twenty three sport codes have been given an opportunity to start, and these are low-risk sport codes,” he said.

“Our focus as Ministry, SRC, is now on how we can assist the sports sector to resume, under the current conditions, in a safe manner, following protocols and guidelines, which will mitigate the spread of this virus. “The resumption of high-risk sport codes, football in particular, is a matter that is still under consideration, extensive engagements, and consultations, are underway, for a sustainable solution to the matter. “But, just to give a background, football has been designated as a high-risk sport code, a high-risk sport code is where there is reasonable frequency of testing, not more than 14 days apart, and stringent appropriate Covid-19 containment protocols.

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