DOMESTIC footballers have described the return of the game as a welcome development that is good for, not only the players, but other stakeholders like clubs and fans as well.
Competitive local soccer action is set for a restart after Government on Tuesday gave the nod to all sporting activities to resume under national Lockdown Level Two measures.
All clubs are required to uphold the recommended guidelines and ensure that every player and staff member, including coaches and managers, are fully vaccinated before participating.
Such Covid-19 protocols as mandatory sanitisation, temperature checks, wearing face masks where and when appropriate as well as maintaining social distancing shall be strictly adhered to at the match venues.
The games will be played in a “non-spectator” environment.
Football’s resumption will mark continuation of the knock-out tournament that served as the season’s curtain-raiser — the Chibuku Super Cup.
The competition got the ball rolling in May as a pilot project to assess the viability of the eventual return of the league campaign.
Authorities governing domestic football had indicated that going by the success of this cluster competition — where teams were grouped into four blocs and were competing in Mutare, Harare, Bulawayo and Zvishavane — the top-flight league would eventually return.
However, it was called off at the end of June while at the halfway stage as Covid-19 infection cases spiked, resulting in national lockdown measures being tightened to contain the disease.
Since the conclusion of the 2019 season, the sport took a hiatus following the outbreak of the global coronavirus pandemic.
And after enduring a lengthy spell on the sidelines, football stars are itching for a return to action as the game is bouncing back.
Teams have already started training sessions in readiness for the resumption of domestic soccer action.
Players who spoke to Post Sport yesterday (Thursday) expressed both relief and delight.
“For me, football is the heartbeat around which everything revolves for players. Covid-19 has been such a major setback and the return of football has been long overdue. I am overwhelmed by the prospects of playing again and it is wonderful to get to do again something I am passionate about. Ideally, it would have been more special if supporters were allowed into the stadia so we partake together, but in the light of the pandemic, this is a very good restart for the game. Fans can always return whenever it is safe to do so.
“Our training sessions are progressing smoothly and going according to plan tactically. The layoff has been long, but we are working hard to come to speed with the intensity this resumption will require. As Tenax, we are preparing well and raring to go. We mean serious business. Our desire is to make a mark and leave an impression in our maiden campaign among the big boys of the local game. We are geared to establish the Tenax brand,” said the correctional services outfit defender, Joseph Jambo.
Budding Mutare-born protégé, Tendai Matindife is relishing the prospect of developing his fledgling career further.
Said the Ngezi Platinum Stars starlet: “I am delighted that we are finally getting back to the pitch. Every moment of the workouts has been enjoyable for me since we started preparations. Personally, I am almost there in terms of getting fit and match-ready. I am looking forward to enjoying first team football more regularly and prove why the club signed me by helping them achieve their goals.”
His hometown mate and fellow Madamburo player, Nyasha Chintuli echoed similar sentiments.
The talented gunslinger reiterated his desire to be the top scorer for whatever tournament he competes in.
“We have to make the most of this competition in readiness for the league games. We are in it to win it. We can hardly wait for action to roar into life,” said Chintuli.
Utility player, Lincoln Mangayira, who turns out Lowveld side, Triangle, is excited about the impending challenge.
“We are coming out of a difficult time under the ravaging Covid-19 pandemic, and we are still emphasising on safe health practices in our everyday living. Football’s return is good and we will adhere to the recommended regulations upon resumption. After moving here from Mutare City Rovers, I have settled and adjusting well to the club culture.
“Without putting ourselves under unnecessary pressure, we are working hard to get knitted into a formidable force. We are keen to compete and not just make up numbers,” said the Dangamvura-bred gangly footballer.
Ex-Buffaloes and Mutare United forward, Phenias Bamusi has unfinished business following CAPS United’s anti-climactic end to the 2019 season.
“We had a shaky start to the campaign and that lull since June has provided us with an opportunity to perfect our art. As we return, we will be out to get our act right and progress all the way to winning the Chibuku Cup. We boast the arsenal to do the job. CAPS United is a big institution and the tradition of the club is to challenge for honours and emerge the best at the end of every campaign,” said the speedy winger.
He added that they had badly missed the game.
“As players, we are used to playing football. In fact, this is our livelihood and the non-activity was affecting us in a number of different ways,” said Bamusi.
Football’s resumption is also set to renew the rivalry between cross-town antagonists, Manica Diamonds and Tenax who will both be using Sakubva Stadium as their home ground.
The first ever instalment of the Premiership Mutare Derby went Tenax’s way, with the prisons wardens taking the bragging rights following a 2-1 victory for the debutants in Match Day Two of the Chibuku Super Cup on May 30.