ABSA Bank Zambia Plc and the Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) have officially announced that the 2020 Absa Cup tournament that was scheduled to take off in March, this year, will resume next year at dates to be announced following a spike in COVID-19 cases.

Confirming the development in a statement, Wednesday, Absa Bank Zambia head of marketing and corporate relations Mato Shimabale stated that the decision was arrived at in consultation with FAZ following a rise in COVID-19 cases and health concerns.

“After taking into account the prevalence of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have come to an amicable decision with the Football Association of Zambia to cancel the 2020 tournament. The cancellation based on the current health concerns and the decision has been made in the best interest of all stakeholders, particularly the players and team officials. As sponsors of the Absa Cup, we remain committed to sponsoring this tournament in line with our obligation to be a ‘Force for Good’ in the communities we operate. We are fully committed in supporting the growth of Zambian football and the talent that we have among the youth in line with the Bank’s purpose of bringing possibilities to life,” said Shimable.

“Our commitment to the game of football remains unwavering and we will explore the option of having an expanded tournament next year. I would like to sincerely thank our partners namely the Sports and Health Ministries, FAZ and SuperSport for their continued support and cooperation in working with the Bank during this sponsorship.”

And FAZ general secretary Adrian Kashala expressed despair at the abrupt cancellation, but stressed that health concerns took prominence over sport.

“While we are saddened that we have had to defer the tournament to next year owing to the prevailing health crisis in the country, we are happy that partners like Absa continue to commit to the development of Zambian football, particularly during these challenging and unprecedented times. While the cancellation of the tournament this year is disappointing to the football fans, there was, however, no other way under the prevailing COVID-19 crisis that prescribes strict guidelines to stage matches. We look forward to a spectacular tournament next year,” said Kashala.

Absa is also the official African Banking Partner of the globally-renowned English Premier League that will be resuming next month.