September 18, 2021

Coronavirus: FAZ ends Zambian Super League, to declare champion

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The competition restarted in mid-July despite Forest Rangers, Zesco United, Buildcon and Napsa Stars announcing varying numbers of infections

Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) has moved to cancel the Super League after less than a month of action since its July 18 resumption.

Following an Executive Committee meeting held on Thursday, the federation decided to bring the competition to a premature end following an increase of coronavirus infections among teams’ officials and players.

Forest Rangers were the first team to announce that a total of 28 members tested Covid-19 positive before their first match.

Zesco United and Buildcon each confirmed two cases while a recent announcement by Napsa Stars, that a total of 19 members had contracted the disease, was a testament of how the virus had spread among the Super League fraternity.

“The decision to close the league has been necessitated by the concerns that the association has received from various stakeholders especially government through the Ministry of Health particularly from Zambia National Public Health Institute,” FAZ announced.

“The recent surge in numbers of the Covid-19 occurrences has put a strain on the health system across the board.

“FAZ has been monitoring the situation and also constantly engaging the authorities on the possibilities as the numbers continue to surge.

“One of the major challenges has been the long delays in securing test appointments and results by most of the clubs in the league after being tested which meant that certain matches could not be played due to the inability of clubs to produce results when called upon to do so.

“Regrettably, with the surge in numbers, it has meant that the flow of results has been slower.

“Unfortunately despite signing up to observe the guidelines provided by the Ministry of Health, the compliance levels by most of the clubs have also not been satisfactory.

“Arising from the following challenges and in view of the high incidents of new Covid-19 cases, the FAZ executive has been left with no choice but to bring the league to early closure.”

The leagues, both the top-tier and the second division, are set to end on August 6 and FAZ have announced that champions will be declared nonetheless.

“The current league will be concluded on August 6, 2020, after all the teams have played their Week 27 round of matches,” added the communique.

“Accordingly, champions will be declared for both the FAZ MTN Super Division and FAZ Eden University National Division One.

“FAZ will ensure that all outstanding issues around fixtures are cleared to avoid controversy.

“The lower leagues and women leagues will also be allowed to wind down their season by playing an equal number of games. FAZ will provide the roadmap in due course.”

The Zambian federation also revealed plans for the next season as well as the domestic tournament, the Absa Cup.

“Furthermore, the executive has decided that the 2020/2021 season will commence on October 17, 2020. The Absa Cup will be played as a precursor to the 2020/2021 Season after the Charity Shield,” it continued.

“Prior to the resumption of training for the 2020/2021 season, clubs should observe all health protocols during training.

“Testing will be conducted at regular intervals in order for FAZ and Ministry of Health and Ministry of Sport to monitor Covid-19 infection levels amongst players and officials.”

The restart and premature closure of the Zambian competition sets a new precedent, unlike Tanzania and Burundi’s competitions which restarted and ended naturally amid the coronavirus pandemic.