By Petros Kausiyo and Langton Nyakwenda
As the coronavirus outbreak continues to ravage international sport, FIFA has thrown its weight behind players and ruled that clubs are not compelled to release them to their national teams until the pandemic has been contained.
The world soccer governing body also cancelled international fixtures for the remainder of March and April.
FIFA secretary-general Fatma Samoura told member associations in a circular that apart from postponing the games, the federation wanted players protected from any sanctions by their national teams if they stayed holed up at their clubs.
The Warriors have players such as skipper Knowledge Musona, Marvelous Nakamba, Tino Kadewere, Tendai Darikwa, Teenage Hadebe and Martin Maphisa, who are dotted around Europe, which has since been declared by the World Health Organisation as the epicentre of Covid-19.
“We are writing to you regarding the release of players to association teams in the upcoming international windows in the context of Annexe of the FIFA Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players (RSTP).
“The global outbreak of the Covid-19 virus is fluid and developing matter. Statistics from the World Health Organisation, at the time of writing, indicate that there are approximately 130 000 reported cases affecting 123 countries, cities, or territories,” reads the communication from FIFA.
“Many national governments have put in place restricted travel and immigration requirements, introduced quarantine periods and banned public gatherings.
“Football (and public) authorities have taken similar precautions in ordering matches to be postponed or played behind closed doors, restricting access to team dressing rooms and stadiums, and suspending or cancelling competitions.”
FIFA recently postponed the Asian and South American qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 citing the need to protect the well-being and health of “all individuals involved in football matches”.
The world football governing body also indicated that “clubs are not obliged to release their registered players to association teams”.
However, in the event that the club agrees to release registered players to an association team, the player may decline the call-up.
Any such decisions shall not be subject to disciplinary measures, FIFA said.
It adds: “If a player is unable to resume duty with their club by the relevant deadline due to Covid-19, the association and/or the player shall not be subject to any future restrictions or disciplinary measures.
“The following international windows are subject to this decision: a. 23-31 March 2020 (men’s international match calendar); a. 23-31 March 2020 (men’s international match calendar); b. 6-15 April 2020 (women’s international match calendar); c. 6-15 April 2020 (futsal international match calendar).”
FIFA has since recommended that all scheduled matches be postponed.
But “the final decision on this matter rests with the relevant competition organisers or with the relevant member associations in case of friendlies”.
Matches affected by this decision, the circular adds, should be rescheduled following appropriate consultation between FIFA and the confederation(s) concerned.
Despite FIFA and CAF moving to suspend matches, new Warriors coach Zdravko Logarusic completed an eye-opening first week in charge of the senior side.
Logarusic presided over the training camp of the local ensemble of the Warriors, which began on Monday, in preparation for the African Nations Championship (CHAN) finals in Cameroon.
CAF has not yet ruled out staging the CHAN tournament in Cameroon next month, although the continental body indicated that they would send their medical team to Yaoundé to assess the situation in that country.
However, Logarusic remained undistracted from his job even as the possibility of the CHAN finals being postponed loomed large.
He looked bright and was full of humour as he prepared to take his charges for the Friday afternoon session at Hellenics Sports Club.
“I am a very nice coach, very free. We can joke a lot but when it comes to work, we have to work. You can ask coach Lodza (Lloyd Chitembwe) or any of the players how I operate,” quipped Logarusic.
“But, on a serious note, I can tell you Zimbabwe has got talent. The only major problem we have is that we have players who are not in the right frame and shape because of the off-season.
“These boys have not played serious football in the last three months. None of them will be in the right shape next week, or the week after, but we do not have to make excuses.
“Zimbabwe’s nickname is the Warriors so I am sure the players will prove they are real warriors when we get to the CHAN finals,” he said.
The former Sudan national team coach has settled well in the country.
He has spoken to every player in the CHAN squad and is slowly developing a bond with the local ensemble of the Warriors.
“It is my pleasure working with these boys, let us see how it goes. It has been a very short time so far but we are gelling. The quality is there and we are trying our best.”
Logarusic is working with 28 local players, who include Ian Nekati, King Nadolo and Wellington Taderera.
Devon Chafa (Ngezi Platinum Stars), Phineas Bamusi (CAPS United), Qadr Amini (Ngezi Platinum Stars), Kelvin Madzongwe (FC Platinum) and Triangle’s new goalkeeper Talbert Shumba are also part of the CHAN squad.
“I had no chance to observe the players, we are depending on what they did last year. I spoke to them (players) and some are saying they are at 70 percent, that means we are missing the other 30 from most of these players,” Logarusic said.
It is believed that the CHAN finals will likely be postponed as coronavirus continues to spread.
Rwanda and Morocco have already pulled out of the tourney, while hosts Cameroon — who by Friday had recorded at least two cases of the virus — have introduced strict screening rules for people entering the Central African nation. The Sunday Mail