As the Footballers Union of Zimbabwe we are greatly concerned about the readiness and preparedness of the players in terms of the Friendly match scheduled for Malawi. The health and safety of players is not negotiable.
According to the Return to play protocols in normal football settings players need a full pre-season training program which is about 6-8 weeks and for those whose leagues have resumed at least 3 weeks of high intensity group training is required before resuming play so that players retrain optimally football specific endurance, speed, strength and coordination. Thus, the duration, frequency and intensity of training sessions should gradually increase, considering the potential temporary immune system depression within the COVID-19 emergency period. Players carry the greatest risk and social cost in the context of return to play scenarios. At the same time, high performance sports and intensified workload require a maximum amount of sport specific training and medical assistance. The absence of any insurance plan makes this even worse.
We have noted with great concern that ZIFA has made arrangements for the team to travel by bus or air for a distance which is more than 600 kms one way, it should be noted that for the local based players they have not trained for more than 8months and the foreign based have travelled long distances only to be subjected to more traveling. All kinds of travel can take a toll on health for reasons ranging from dehydration to exhaustion which can contribute to decreased performance, players accuracy and reaction time and increased chances of making errors that can cause injuries to them.
The low levels of preparedness by the association in relation to this match thus leaves our players at high risk of injuries, fatigue and other career threatening problems. As FUZ we wish to make an appeal to the authorities to cancel this game for the goodness of our players and find another solution which does not leave our members susceptible to health problems. Let’s not continue normalising abnormal situations and setting a wrong precedence due to lack of planning