By Eddie Chikamhi
The Confederation of African Football have reached out to ZIFA to enquire about the Covid-19 crisis in the Warriors’ camp and the additional lockdown measures ahead of the national football team’s participation at this year’s Africa Nations Championship in Cameroon.
The Warriors’ camp was plunged into crisis last week after nine players and five officials returned positive tests.
This forced the suspension of the preparations for the CHAN tournament, which is expected to kickoff in Cameroon in two weeks’ time.
ZIFA spokesperson Xolisani Gwesela yesterday said CAF are also anxious to hear from the association after sports activities were put on hold at the weekend by Government in response to the spiralling coronavirus cases.
“CAF have written to us enquiring our position with regards to the COVID-19 cases and the additional lockdown measures that were announced at the weekend.
“We are yet to give a concrete response because we can only be able to know the next step once we get the response from SRC. We have sent our request to resume preparations as well as participate at the tournament and it’s being considered.
“But at the moment we are grounded. Our players are still in quarantine and they will only be retested after 10 days (on Thursday) to see if there are any recoveries. We also have another group of players on standby.
“But we have proposed to CAF that the tournament be postponed to safeguard the health of the players since Covid-19 cases have been on the rise across the continent,” said Gwesela.
The CHAN tournament is expected to kick off in Cameroon on January 16 with Zimbabwe taking on the hosts in the opening match. They will also play Burkina Faso and Mali in Group A.
But almost half the Warriors team is down with coronavirus and have been self-isolating since last week. The rest of the team has remained in quarantine and there were fears more cases could be detected.
ZIFA were yesterday expected to get results for the repeat tests of those players and officials that had tested negative.
The association have tentatively set the departure date for this Sunday. But this will be subject to Government approval.
“The good news is that Government is working on ZIFA’s request to allow the Warriors to resume preparations and travel to Cameroon.
The Sports and Recreation Commission acting director-general Sebastian Garikai yesterday said ZIFA’s request was being worked on.
“We have received the letter from ZIFA and we are working on it. It’s important to note that the approval is not automatic.
“It is a process which starts from our office.
“We make recommendations and then forward the request to the Covid-19 board committee.
“The committee will also look at it and then forward to the Minister who will then come up with a decision, obviously in consultation with other stakeholders like the Ministry of Health and Child Care and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“The aim is to safeguard the health of our athletes since we are in the middle of a pandemic. But by tomorrow we should be in a position to tell,” said Garikai.
In a previous interview with The Herald, Garikai said they shall conduct extensive environmental and operation scans for every application to conduct any sporting or recreation activity in the wake of rising Covid-19 cases.
He said the country’s supreme sports body, in consultation with relevant stakeholders, will be going a step further to ensure safety and welfare of athletes and everyone involved in sport and recreational activities.
This came after 14 members in the Warriors camp for the CHAN tournament had tested positive for the virus last week.
“All NSAs (National Sport Associations) have been advised on the importance of strict adherence to the COVID-19 prevention and containment measures.
“Going forward, SRC in consultation with the relevant stakeholders shall conduct extensive environmental and operation scans for every application to conduct any sporting or recreational activity before authorisation as guided by the Minister (of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation) and the Ministry of Health and Child Care.
“The Sports and Recreation sector continues to be vigilant in guarding against complacency in the containment of Covid-19 more so in view of the current prevailing second wave of the pandemic.
“The recent development whereby a number of the men’s national soccer team and technical staff who are in camp preparing for the CHAN 2021 tournament in Cameroon have tested positive to the virus is indeed regrettable.
“However, we acknowledge the efforts by ZIFA in following provided protocols in line with the containment of the virus.
“Their adherence to laid down procedures and protocols for the prevention and containment of COVID-19 prevented further spread of the virus to the whole team as all team members were tested upon their return to camp,” said Garikai. The Herald.