Zambian season restarts 24 hours after coronavirus drama

Record 12-time Zambia Super League champions Nkana were fourth in the table when the 2019/2020 season resumed this weekend (AFP Photo/ISSOUF SANOGO) (AFP)

Johannesburg (AFP) - The Zambia Super League resumed Sunday, one day behind schedule after a match involving leaders Forest Rangers was postponed because 28 of the players and staff tested positive for coronavirus.

Football in the southern Africa nation was suspended during March when the COVID-19 disease swept through a continent with fragile public health systems.

Zambia decided to restart the 2019/2020 season behind closed doors amid the health crisis with 2,810 confirmed infections in the country and 109 deaths.

In the opening match, Buildcon rallied to draw 1-1 with Power Dynamos thanks to a Chanda Mushili goal after Biston Banda put Dynamos ahead.

Defending champions Zesco United were surprisingly held 1-1 by lowly Kansanshi Dynamos in the second match of a double-header at Levy Mwanawasa Stadium in central city Ndola.

Zesco fell behind when Clement Mwape conceded an own-goal and Jesse Were, one of four Kenyans in the title-holders' starting line-up, equalised.

Rangers are seeking a first title since being founded in 1975 and were due to face Zanaco Saturday, also in Ndola.

But the fixture had to be postponed at the last minute after 28 players and staff at the club out of 58 who underwent COVID-19 tests had contracted the virus.

Reacting to the huge number of infections at one club, national association official Adrian Kashals said "we are concerned that some clubs have relaxed adherence to COVID-19 guidelines.

"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."

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. Nigeria and Ghana cancelled their seasons due to the pandemic.