from MARCUS MUSHONGA in Harare, Zimbabwe
HARARE, (CAJ News) – A WORSENING coronavirus crisis within the team’s camp and suspension of all sporting activities in the wake of the resurgence of the pandemic have further cast doubt in Zimbabwe’s readiness for the African Nations Championship (CHAN) in Cameroon.
Before the imposition of additional COVID-19 measures, the Warriors’ camp was already in disarray after nine players tested positive for the virus.
It has later emerged five officials, including the Croation-born head coach, Zdravko Logarusic, also returned positive tests.
The unnamed players have been in isolation.
To further add to the Southern African team’s woes, there is great concern over their fitness levels, with a ball not having been kicked in more than a year in the domestic premiership.
The elite league, which traditionally runs from February / March to November / December, has failed to kick off as a result of the lockdown initially imposed at the beginning of April.
It coincided with neighbouring South Africa putting in place similar restrictions.
The Zimbabwe Football Association (ZIFA) is making frantic efforts to salvage the Warriors’ camp ahead of the opening CHAN fixture. There are fears of a last-minute withdrawal from the continental competition.
It is imperative that a solution is found timeously, with Zimbabwe fixture to play the hosts in the opening match on January 16.
Xolisani Gwesela, the ZIFA Head of Communications, Competitions, Marketing and Club Licensing, confirmed they had raised their concerns with authorities ahead of the kickoff of the sixth edition of CHAN.
“We have written to the Sports Commission for guidance and permission for the national football team to remain in camp and to continue with their preparations,” Gwesela said.
Nonetheless, he said they endorsed the lockdown measures announced by the acting president, Constantino Chiwenga, as Zimbabwe experiences the second COVID-19 wave.
“We respect the move by authorities because it is meant to safeguard peoples’ lives and health,” Gwesela said.
Indications are that if they eventually send a team, perennial underachievers Zimbabwe will struggle at the CHAN, where in addition to Cameroon, they face West African outfits, Burkina Faso and Mali.
The tournament is scheduled until February 7.
Repeated conflict between the players and ZIFA over money have in the past derailed the progress of the Warriors, whose best finish at the tournament was fourth in 2014, hosted by South Africa.
– CAJ News