BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
ITALY-BASED Sables captain Brendon Mandivenga has allayed fears about his safety after the European country, where he plies his trade for second-tier side CUS Genova, overtook China as the country with the most coronavirus deaths on Friday.
The coronavirus has killed more people in Italy than in any other country, after fatalities there rose by 627 in 24 hours on Friday to take the death toll in the country to 4 032, which is more than in China where the virus originated last year.
A lockdown imposed on March 12 in Italy has been extended beyond the original March 25 end date as authorities battle to stop the spread of the novel Covid-19 virus.
Nearly all people living in Italy have been told to stay at home including the 25 year-old gifted Zimbabwe international utility back, who was in the midst of his first season at Italian Serie A side CUS Genova Rugby, which is based in the port city of Genoa.
Mandivenga told Standardsport in an interview from Italy that he was safe, but admitted that the situation there is currently dire as the number of new cases and deaths has continued to spiral.
“I am all safe, thank you, although the situation is not the greatest here in Italy, but my area is better than other areas, but all places have been locked down for now,” Mandivenga said.
In a bid to make sure he stays safe amidst the coronavirus pandemic, Mandivenga, just like most professional athletes based in Europe, has undergone a period of isolation.
He, however, admits it has been tough trying to keep himself in the best possible shape in case the action resumes.
“The lockdown has been very tough on us. Going from a full-time training schedule week in week out to being restricted to the parameters of our own homes has been very tough. There’s only so much exercise that you can do in your house and it’s not nearly the same as being able to train in the gym or a training session on the field,” he said.
“Another frustrating part also is the social aspect as you are not able to socialise with other teammates during the period as you can only leave home to go to the supermarket or pharmacy. So, this has definitely been a tough period for me and I’m sure for everyone else as well. But at the end it’s all about our safety and the safety of those around us and we are thankful that we are safe and healthy and pray for those who have caught it to recover well,” said Mandivenga.
The former Peterhouse College maestro moved to Italy in October last year becoming the only fully-fledged Zimbabwean international plying his trade in the country.
Mandivenga has previously played for Leicester Tigers Academy and Loughborough University in England.
At CUS Genova, Mandivenga, who is equally at home at fly-half, fullback and centre, has been at the heart of the back three, featuring regularly at fullback.
He says he has been enjoying his stint at the ambitious side, which like most clubs in the Serie A aspires to play in the Top12 — the highest tier of the national rugby union competition in Italy.
“It’s been very good here, I’ve learned a lot here from the season so far. It was a very tough start to the season with a relatively new and young squad, but we’ve grown a lot. I’ve done pretty well and enjoyed the season so far. Competition has been very strong and there are some top players around at some of the other clubs that we play against,” he said.
After missing the Sables Victoria Cup winning campaign due to injury, Mandivenga said he was looking forward to the new season where Zimbabwe are scheduled to feature in the SuperSport Challenge in South Africa and the Africa Cup.
The country’s participation in both tournaments is however in doubt due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has led to mass cancelations of most international sports events.