WITH news filtering in that the powers-that-be in Malawi and Mozambique football circles are strongly contemplating permanently changing their seasons to August-May Fifa calendar, the Zimbabwe elite football league might remain the odd one out in the Cosafa region and Africa at large with a flagship competition that runs between March and December.
Zimbabwe, Malawi and Mozambique were among the few countries in Africa that have calendars that run from March to December despite Fifa and Caf recommending the change.
While Fifa and Caf have been pushing for all its member associations to align to the August-May calendar local football authorities have always hesitated to do that arguing that there was an unsuccessful effort to adjust the season in 1999 as most Premier Soccer League matches were abandoned or deferred due to waterlogged surfaces during the rainy season.
As such, for the past 20 years, local football has always been played between March and December but the coronavirus outbreak prevented the 2020 season from kicking off at the end of March.
The timing of the international calendar is co-ordinated with international competitions such as Afcon and the World Cup.
The international calendar also dictates the opening and closing of the international transfer window.
However, Malawi is continuing to build their roadmap back to play and has made a draft presentation to the government to this effect (August to May calendar). They were also meeting the country’s health officials amid optimism that football could resume soon.
Football Association of Malawi (FAM) secretary-general Alfred Gunda told Malawi’s The Nation they had taken advantage of the delayed kick-off to permanently align the football calendar to international standard as previously recommended by Fifa and Confederation of African Football (Caf).
“FAM will maintain a nine or 10-month calendar meaning kicking off in August and ending in May 2021. The nine weeks in between will give FAM ample time to lobby and thoroughly consult and seek guidance for go-ahead from all relevant stakeholders. The period will be enough to give teams training plans for a proper off-season preparation; a team needs at least six weeks to prepare for a season,” said Gunda.
Nevertheless, the association is also mindful of the challenge that the season will clash with the rainy season which could lead to postponement of matches due to water-logged pitches.
“The calendar will also go through the rainy season raising fears of a number of postponed and abandoned matches. To mitigate the crammed calendar and rain fears, the following should be considered: Some adjustments to the fixtures with more midweek matches; a four-week break between December and January to mitigate the rain factors. Between December and February fixing of matches should take into consideration rain patterns in the country, that is, it rains heavily in the South in December and in the North in January and February,” read a FAM statement.
In Mozambique, football authorities are also pondering a change after the resumption of their 2020 season was also negatively impacted by Covid-19.
The Mozambique top-flight league, which is popularly known as MocamBola, was due to start on 4 April.
Mozambique Football Federation (MFF) and MocamBola officials are due to meet this month to review the situation.
“The new 2020 season has yet to get underway in Mozambique but the hope is that matches will be able to be played this year. Clubs in Macombola are pushing for an August start, which would see the league finish in May. This would present a change for Mozambique, which has previously had its season in a single calendar year,” read a statement on the Cosafa website.
The only body which has great influence to change the local football calendar is the Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) Annual General Assembly.
At last year’s indaba, Zifa councillors reportedly refused to change the calendar, maintaining that more consultations were needed.
With the Zifa AGM indefinitely suspended due to coronavirus, it is unclear when local football can finally match other nations’ calendars.