BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
CHINA-BASED former Warriors striker Nyasha Mushekwi (pictured) has revealed how his team’s pre-season camp in Turkey helped him escape being caught up in the lockdown in China due to the deadly coronavirus.
The 32-year-old Zimbabwean forward is currently the only Zimbabwean professional footballer in China, where he plies his trade for China League One club Zhejiang Greentown.
With the world’s eyes fixated on China as the coronavirus continues to escalate, there were genuine concerns that the former CAPS United star could have been affected by the deadly virus, which has been spreading around the world.
Mushekwi, however, told StandardSport from South Africa on Friday that he was safe after his Chinese Super League outfit Zhejiang Greentown FC moved from its home base of Hangzhou to Turkey last month.
Zhejiang Greentown initially moved to Thailand in early January before relocating to Turkey where Mushekwi and his teammates were based until they broke camp recently.
Mushekwi revealed that he would soon be returning home as his club will only return to China upon receiving the green light from the Chinese government.
“I’m well and safe. I’m currently in South Africa and haven’t been to China yet,” Mushekwi told Standardsport when asked if he had not been affected by the outbreak.
“When the outbreak started I was in Turkey for a training camp with my club, but now I’m in South Africa and will be in Zimbabwe soon.”
Mushekwi’s club is based in Hangzhou‚ some 750km from the epicentre of the virus‚ Wuhan‚ but it is far from business as usual in his city.
China has placed half a billion people on either partial or total “lockdown”, restricting their movement to try and stop the spread of the virus.
It means that households under total lockdown can only send one person out into the streets every three days to buy groceries‚ otherwise they must remain indoors.
Neighbours are given financial incentives to report people who do not follow these strict orders.
Although Mushekwi is safe, his career is currently in limbo as he is set to be out of action for an indefinite amount of time after the Chinese Football Association recently suspended all football in the country due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The new China League One season was scheduled to kick off on March 29, but the league’s start was postponed indefinitely.
No timeframe has been provided for when professional football might resume in China and any resumption will depend on how long it takes authorities to get the spread of the virus under control‚ which for the moment shows little sign of abating.
Mushekwi’s teammate at Zhejiang Greentown, the South African international Dino Ndlovu, revealed how the coronavirus had impacted his club where five of their teammates and the club’s coach hail from Wuhan, the epicentre of the virus.
“This virus has affected not only my team, but a lot of people in China and for my own team there are about five senior players from this city of Wuhan, which has been under serious monitoring [quarantine],” Ndlovu told Sabc.
“Our coach is also from the place and their families are stuck. Even recently in January when we were in Thailand these players didn’t have a chance to see their families and it was really heartbreaking to see them spending the New Year’s holiday outside of their city. It’s something that has really affected these players.”
Ndlovu, who has netted in 36 goals for his side over the past two seasons, admits the uncertainty is nerve-wrecking for foreign players while the uncertainty over their immediate future was frustrating.
“It’s something really nerve-wrecking because the government is the one, which is controlling everything and now the league has been postponed until further notice. The league was supposed to kick off on February 29, but now we will have to wait until the end of April or beginning of May, so it’s really frustrating and confusing.”
He added: “It’s boring to be in another place or country playing friendlies without having any information on when the league is going to start. It is really demoralising to us especially as foreigners. I cannot go back to China because if I go back there, I’m going to be quarantined for 14 days so travelling from country to country and also other countries are sceptical about allowing us in to come as teams here in Turkey they don’t want to play against us unless there’s a coronavirus check to check if we don’t have the virus,” Ndlovu said.
The World Health Organisation has called the spread of the virus “deeply concerning” as a wave of countries yesterday reported their first cases of the Covid-19 disease, which has now killed nearly 3 500 people and infected more than 100 000 across 92 nations and territories.
A second case of the deadly coronavirus was yesterday confirmed in neighbouring South Africa.
The deadly virus has also had a massive impact on sport and could yet see the postponement‚ or even cancellation‚ of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in neighbouring Japan.