JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, Jul 18 – The restart of the Zambian season, planned for Saturday, was delayed 24 hours after 28 players and staff from league leaders Forest Rangers tested positive for coronavirus.
Rangers had been scheduled to play Zanaco in central city Ndola in the first Super League match since the season was halted in early March by the COVID-19 disease.
All 18 league clubs had to undergo coronavirus tests this week and of the 58 players and staff at Rangers, only 30 were negative, according to the national football association.
“The association is greatly concerned that some clubs have relaxed their adherence to the COVID-19 guidelines,” general secretary Adrian Kashala told AFP.
“We should never forget that the league resumption can always be halted if clubs do not adhere to the prescribed guidelines.
“Clubs will face stiff penalties for breaching COVID-19 guidelines, including losing points or matches being cancelled.”
The 2019/2020 season will now restart Sunday in Ndola with a double-header featuring Zesco United against Kansanshi Dynamos followed by Buildcon versus Power Dynamos.
Rangers top the table on 46 points from 24 matches as they seek a first title with Napsa Stars (45), Green Eagles (44), Nkana (43) and defending champions Zesco (42) in hot pursuit.
Nkana have won a record 12 Super League titles in Zambia followed by Mufulira Wanderers (nine) and Zesco (eight).
Matches will be staged behind closed doors in the southern Africa nation, where there have been 2,810 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 109 deaths.
Zambia are the second country in Africa after Tanzania, where spectators are permitted, to restart their season.
Burundi were the only African nation to continue playing through the pandemic and allowed spectators during a season that finished last weekend.
Several major leagues, including those in Egypt, Morocco, South Africa and Tunisia, are expected to resume soon.