While Botswana and other COSAFA members ponder a return to football action, neighbouring Zambia’s season is in full swing despite the coronavirus (COVID-19) threat.
Township Rollers midfielder Mothusi Cooper recently moved to Zambian side, Lusaka Dynamos and started training on Monday this week. Cooper’s former teammates at Popa are, however, still waiting with bated breath to see if football will return as Botswana battles a second wave of the coronavirus.
In Zambia, despite a surge in cases, it is business as usual, although spectators are not allowed at stadiums. Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) deputy secretary Joseph Chimpampwe said the mother body had utilised the FIFA COVID-19 Relief Fund to ensure football activities resumed.
In Botswana, leagues were suspended in March and the Botswana Football Association (BFA) is hopeful a return to action next month is possible. Chimpampwe said FAZ has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Zambia Medical Association to carry out regular rapid tests on players. However, he admitted that it has been very difficult to play under COVID-19 conditions. Players are tested before every match. “It is very difficult and not sustainable,” Chimpampwe told Mmegi Sport this week. He said the absence of fans means clubs have to use their own financial resources to sustain the campaign. Fortunately, the league has not lost any sponsorship during the pandemic. One club, Nakambala Leopards, nevertheless, had
The team trained and played within the company’s area of operations, Nakambala Estates,” veteran Zambian sports journalist, Benedict Tembo told Mmegi Sport. The Zambian league’s teething problems after the restart included delayed release of results, with Tembo saying some were only available moments before kick-off. “This caused confusion, particularly where key players tested positive and results were only out moments before kick-off. It was a learning curve,” Tembo said.
The BFA is also expected to face challenges as football attempts a return nearly 12 months since the action was suspended. Movements within zones are restricted, and the country is battling an unprecedented rise in cases, which has seen COVID-19 related deaths more than double in three weeks.
Some countries in the region like Zimbabwe are yet to resume activities, while Eswatini suspended play in December after just two rounds. Malawi has also stopped play in response to rising cases, while cash-rich South Africa has managed to have a near seamless return.