Zifa await CAF response …Time running out for Warriors

BY DANIEL NHAKANISO

ZIFA is still awaiting a response from the Confederation of African Football (Caf) after seeking an extension of the date for submission of the African Nations Championship (Chan) squad amid a crippling Covid-19 outbreak in the Warriors camp, less than two weeks before the start of the competition.

The local football governing body was expected to submit their final 23-man squad for the continental championships for locally based players before Wednesday’s deadline for the registration of the travelling squads.

However, with nine players and five officials still in isolation after testing positive for Covid-19 and the other players having undergone a second round of testing by the Health and Child care ministry, Zimbabwe’s participation in the Chan finals remains in doubt.

Warriors coach Zdravko Logarusic is believed to be among those that returned positive tests when the players and officials took Covid-19 tests after their return from the Christmas break on Monday.

Zifa spokesperson Xolisani Gwesela told Standardsport in an interview that the association was still awaiting a response from the continental body on the way forward.

“We have notified Caf on the situation and asked for an extension to the deadline for us to submit the provisional squad, but we haven’t received a response yet. In the next coming two days we will be providing another update, he said.

The problem was worsened after the SRC (Sports and Recreation Commission) suspended all sporting activities in the country.

“The SRC has with immediate effect suspended all sporting activity in Zimbabwe, subject to review on January 31, 2021,” tweeted Information permanent secretary Nick Mangwana last night.

“Any exceptions will be dealt with on a case by case basis subject upon receipt of a new application from the sports discipline concerned.”

Gwesela revealed that Warriors’ preparations were still in disarray as the players and officials who tested positive undergoing mandatory 10-day quarantine while those who tested negative were awaiting results from the second round of testing.

“As I indicated earlier in the week that it is indeed a crisis, the 14 players and officials that tested positive for Covid-19 are still in quarantine and they will be tested again after 10 days. Officials from the Ministry of Health and Chil care also came and tested those that had tested negative so they were rested and we are just waiting for the results,” he said.

Zifa last Tuesday revealed that nine players had been infected with the deadly virus. To further compound the situation, five more cases were recorded a day later.

Of the five, two are reportedly members of the technical team which has triggered the temporary suspension of camp until January 4.

Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe Warriors are scheduled to depart to Cameroon for the tournament on January 10.

However, the rise in Covid-19 cases has left the Logarusic-coached team in a complicated scenario as they are also heavily hamstrung by lack of match fitness since the bulk of local players have not played competitive football since the 2019 season.

Zimbabwe tackle hosts Cameroon in Yaounde on January 16 in the tournament opener and will also play Burkina Faso and Mali in Group A with the teams finishing first and second advancing to the quarter-finals.

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