THE country’s top flight Premier Soccer League (PSL) beckons after 13 months of inactivity owing to the COVID-19 pandemic-induced lockdown that put a halt to all football activities.
It’s more than a year since the first COVID-19 induced lockdown that paralysed all sporting activities, forcing players and teams to ground operations.
There was little soccer activitiy during the lockdown, on-and-off the field.
A number of signings were made though, end of last year as teams prepared for the start of the season.
It was mainly FC Platinum who were active on-and-off the field.
On the field, the reigning champions were playing in the Confederation of African Football (CAF) continental club competitions, the Champions League and Confederation Cup.
They have since been knocked out.
The national team was also in action in the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers and CHAN tournament for locally-based players where they dismally performed.
Unfortunately, no fans were allowed to witness live action at the stadia.
The stage is now set for the resumption of the 2021 domestic soccer season with the epic clash of giants, Dynamos against Highlanders, in the Uhuru Cup to mark Zimbabwe’s 41st independence anniversary.
The perennial soccer rivals tested their squads for COVID-19 last week in preparation for the season and the blockbuster match.
Highlanders and Dynamos have both won the Independence Cup eight times and this year’s edition will ascertain who gets the ninth title.
The last edition of the Uhuru Cup was won by Bosso in 2019 when they beat DeMbare 2-0 to be crowned champions equaling Dynamos’ record.
Goals from Bukhosi Sibanda and Tinashe Makanda ensured Bosso won the match against their arch rivals who had dominated the meetings between the two.
Several clubs, last week, had tested their players for COVID-19 in preparation for the domestic soccer season.
The clubs are footing the bills for COVID-19 testing.
There was little activity though on the transfer market because of the lockdown but teams are now prepared to kick-start the season. A number of players crossed floor as free agents following a year of inactivity.
The season will start with a proposed tournament played in four centres across the country (Zvishavane, Harare, Bulawayo and Mutare) where teams will be playing in a round robin format. The winners in each region will then clash at a venue to be announced before the finals to choose a winner.
However, the matches will be played in empty stadia as the sport is yet to be cleared to host spectators.
The PSL chief executive officer, Kenny Ndebele, said the league will remain guided by Government as to when fans will start to watch matches in stadia.
Furthermore, there is no broadcaster yet for the local league and that will be a sad development for the fans who have no access to the match venues.
The issue of broadcast rights remains a contentious one in the country as our national broadcaster expects to be paid for beaming matches live. In other nations, television stations pay for broadcast rights to football authorities.
The deal with Supersport, that racked in some income for clubs, ended in 2017 and there was no extension to the deal.
Since then, little domestic league action has been beamed on television.
The country’s national broadcaster, ZBC, beamed some selected matches on TV and did some radio commentary.
The Independence Cup dates back to 1980 when Zimbabwe attained its freedom after a protracted armed struggle.
The first edition of the Independence Cup featured four nations while the final was the first edition of the ‘Battle of Zambezi’ between neighbours Zimbabwe and Zambia.
The independent Zimbabwe won the first edition of the ‘Battle of Zambezi’ 2-1, with David Mandigora scoring one of the goals at the ceremonial home of football Rufaro Stadium. The team featured other prominent footballers in the mould of the greats Oliver Kateya, George Shaya and Sunday Chidzambwa.
Sport, in colonial Zimbabwe, was highly segregated.
While sports like boxing, football and athletics were the only ones the black majority mostly participated in, independence now meant all Zimbabweans could participate in other sporting activities like tennis, cricket and hockey, though it took time for blacks to get in.
lndependence opened doors for the country to participate in international competitions like the Africa Cup of Nations, club competitions and the World Cup.