ZIFA hold the key for resumption of local football, with the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC) waiting for the national association to respond to the standard operating procedures (SOPs) for commencement of the game.

Last week’s decision to grant rugby clearance to return to competition on condition that the Zimbabwe Rugby Union (ZRU) presents to SRC a framework on how it will progress to create a safe environment, ignited debate and football followers have questioned how rugby was cleared ahead of football.

Some were of the view that maybe Zifa didn’t apply for an exemption, something that SRC has dispelled through its comment that the football motherbody knows what’s expected of it for action to resume.

The SRC said granting permission to the Warriors to travel for the friendly match against Malawi as well as league champions FC Platinum to start training in preparation for the Caf Champions League demonstrates that the country’s supreme sports body has no underlying agenda against the game.

Asked what has been the stumbling block for the resumption of football, Prince Mupazviriwo, the SRC director-general, said Zifa is aware of what it must do to meet the requirements.
“From our side, we’re doing what needs to be done as you saw us clearing the Warriors and FC Platinum.

Talk to Xolisani Gwesela (Zifa communications manager) or Joseph Mamutse (Zifa chief executive officer), they know what to do,” said Mupazviriwo.

Government last month proposed a return of football through a bio-bubble concept, which involves clubs camping in a safe environment with no contact with the outside world.

Zifa needs to submit a guiding document to the SRC which will address the SOPs for transport, training facilities, changing rooms and equipment and on the field of play.
Chronicle Sport has established that the major stumbling block is lack of a guiding document that states procedures, which include testing of players and support staff.

It is not clear if the Zifa medical committee and Premier Soccer League doctors have met with the SRC doctors to discuss the scientific approach to adopt for the safe return of football.

The first step to resumption of sport that the SRC is keen on is testing of players and support staff and Zifa must state when these tests will be done, who will fund the tests and cover disinfection of facilities.

“Zifa needs to present guidelines to the SRC to be granted permission and to date, there’s no road map. The case of FC Platinum was different because the club being a mining club subscribes to SOPs governing the mining industry, which are not the same as those applying to Highlanders or Dynamos, among other teams. So, for that reason, Zifa must have clear guidelines or roadmap.

“They mustn’t confuse testing, training and bubble concept. People can only go to the bubble once they have passed medicals or fitness, which might be four to six weeks. This issue of coming up with a document started in July and had Zifa been organised, by now teams would have long been given clearance to train after satisfying the SOPs given by the SRC,” said a source.

“Zifa and other football leaders think that if the SRC says we’ve given you the greenlight they’ll head straight to training, which isn’t true. The SRC, as a governing body, will only grant that permission once there’s a guiding document after being satisfied that there are no health threats.”

Below is SRC’s full SOPs for commencement of football.

SOP for Transport
● Transport must be provided to and from practice and games.
o All buses should be sanitized with a cleaning product with a sodium hypochlorite concentration of 0.5%.
● between trips, this includes but not limited to;
o Seats,
o Windows and door handles,
o Handles,
o Poles,
o Over head racks.
o Alternatively a fogging machine can be used
● All windows should be open during travel and the use of air-conditioning should be avoided.
● All players should sit with a one seat gap between players.
● Before all players get on the bus the following should be done:
o Temperature check
o Hands sanitized
o A mask should be worn over both the nose and mouth at all times.

SOP at The Training Facility
● Before anyone enters the facility the following should be done:
o Temperature should be checked
o Hands should be sanitized
o Enforce wearing of masks over both nose and mouth when entering and exiting the facility, players are permitted to train and play matches without a mask.
o Enforce social distancing of 2 metres.
o Only allow players and coaching staff to enter the facility, do not allow spectators to enter that facility.
o Let one team in at a time while training and maximum of 2 teams should be allowed when a match is scheduled.
o A player should not be let into the facility if they are not feeling well or exhibit any of the COVID 19 symptoms; including:
▪ Fever
▪ Dry cough
▪ Shortness of breath
▪ Fatigue
▪ General feeling of being unwell.
● Throughout the facility educational posters should be displayed that demonstrate how to correctly sanitize their hands and other advisable hygiene practices as well as other COVID 19 prevention measures.
● Windows should be kept open to allow the facility to be well ventilated; the use of air-conditioning should be avoided where possible.
● Social distancing should be enforced throughout the facility.
● Enforce a “what you take in, you take out” policy including rubbish and all personal equipment. Before a team leaves the surrounds should be checked for anything left lying around. Rubbish bins should be located outside the stadium or practice centre to safely discard your waste. These bins should be lined and should be emptied regularly to prevent them being over filled.
Changing room SOP
● All change rooms should be fully cleaned between teams with a cleaning solution of sodium hypochlorite concentration of 0.5%.
● Social distancing of 2 metres should be enforced between players, to do this usage times of showers, etc, may need to be staggered.
● Hand sanitizer should be placed at the entrances of the change rooms
● All players should have a designated locker to ensure that clothes are not accidentally worn by another player.
● After a player takes a shower they should be provided with cleaning material that they can use to wipe down the shower including the taps and door. Foot baths should also be placed outside the showers so that the player can disinfect his feet before he steps into the shower. The bath should contain hospital disinfectant and should be changed between teams. The cleaning staff will then come in and do a more thorough clean after the team is done showering.
● Staff who clean the change rooms are at increased risk due to the number of commonly touched surfaces, as such they should be provided with the following PPE:
o A face shield (which should be wiped down regularly).
o Mask (which should be changed weekly)
o Gowns (change every day, 2 can be alternated to allow one to be sanitized while the other is being worn).
o Gloves (should be changed during use).
● The change room should be well ventilated.
● There should be designated staff for the change rooms and toilets to prevent cross contamination between rooms.
Equipment SOP
● Do not share personal equipment, including but not limited to; gum guards, shin pads and water bottles.
● Mouth guards- players need to refrain from repeatedly taking out their mouth. If they do take the mouth guard out their mouth they need to immediately sanitize their hands. They should also be put away in a container and should not be left lying around.
● Bring your own water bottle and do not share water bottles. Water bottles should be clearly marked to avoid accidental usage. It is also advised that the players bring enough water to practice to avoid using the same tap to refill bottles.
● All sport equipment that is shared between players should be sanitized with a solution of sodium hypochlorite concentration of 0.5% between each use and if it is kept at the facility or if kept by the coach should be put away and handled with gloves.
● If a massage tool is used on a player it should be sanitized between use and the personal using it on the player should be wearing gloves.
● The use of gym equipment should only be used when absolutely necessary, the following should also be followed:
o All equipment should be thoroughly cleaned between uses.
o Social distancing should be enforced in the gym and the number of people using the gym should be kept to a minimum.
o Windows should be open and the use of air-conditioning should be avoided where possible.
SOP for on field play
● Written confirmation of the infection-free status of the players and staff before commencing the start of the season should be provided.
● Prior to resuming training all players and staff should be provided with sufficient information about COVID 19 and information about appropriate prevention measures.
● All personal equipment belong to each player should be clearly marked and only used by one player. The player should disinfect their sporting apparel after every use.
● Field of play (FOP) equipment , such as balls, should be handed to athletes and support staff by the ground staff wearing gloves and masks and where necessary gowns.
● The ball should be cleaned at every opportunity, for example, whenever the ball goes out of play, the ball should be cleaned with a solution of sodium hypochlorite concentration of 0.5% by a designated individual who will wear gloves whilst cleaning the ball and handing it back to the players.
● While training there should only be one team on the field at time, ensure that you can maintain social distancing on the field.
● Avoid unnecessary physical contact including; handshakes and high-fives.
● All physiotherapy/massage should be avoided unless absolutely necessary, if a tool such as foam roller, could be used it should be used and sanitized after use.
● Spitting and clearing of nasal/respiratory secretions on the pitch or at any place within the facility other than the toilets shall be prohibited.
● No spectators shall be allowed at the games or at practice.

SOP for International Travel.
● Players and staff to be quarantined at facility/ area 10 days prior to departure where possible. Movements of these individuals should be tracked during this time. Psychological support should also be provided for these players as being quarantined can be a stressful and trying time for players.
● PCR tests should be done 24 hours before departure; these results should be shared with the opposing team.
● The opposing team should provide the travelling team with their PCR tests results, these tests should be done 24 hours before the commencement of the match.
● Please see SOP for travelling as these are valid for international travel.
● Once the team has arrived at the provided accommodation they should be confined to this space unless they are playing matches. Curfews should be in place to ensure that these rules are followed with strict punishment for those who violate the rules and regulations. If a players needs to leave the facility they will need to get permission from the coaching staff.
● COVID 19 prevention measures and precautions will also need to be in place at the local team’s stadium and these measures will need to be communicated to the travelling team a week in advance to ensure that they are sufficient and this will allow time for questions that arise regarding these precautions.
● If a player develops symptoms they should be immediately isolated from the other players and tested as soon as possible. Treatment should be provided to treat the symptoms by a physician who is wearing full PPE. The player should also be provided with psychological support as this can be a stressful and emotional trying time.