Warriors shot themselves in the foot during CHAN preparations.
THE recent outbreak of Covid-19 cases in the Warriors camp was an eye-opener for all the stakeholders in the domestic sports industry.
The national football team recorded 14 positive cases when routine tests were conducted on the players and officials upon their return from the Christmas holiday.
Nine players and five officials, who were preparing for the CHAN tournament set to take place in Cameroon this month, were affected and have since been ordered to go into isolation.
The rest of the team members who tested negative have remained in quarantine. Zimbabwe Football Association also responded by suspending the preparations to avoid the risk of spreading the disease further.
The shock and panic that followed was understandable. This surge came at a time when authorities were already planning to open up the space in the sports industry following the devastating blow that athletes and institutions suffered last year, when the pandemic kicked in.
There were many questions that came to mind. The Warriors were supposed to be in a bubble during the preparations for the CHAN tournament. However, they had to go home to be with their families for the Christmas holiday.
So, how many people did these affected guys come into contact with during the Christmas break? Did the outbreak start before or after the Christmas break?
Since the Warriors were tested once at the beginning of the training camp in early December, how safe were they and those from the other nine clubs that they engaged in practice matches?
The Warriors, who were presumably in a “bubble”, broke the rules by opening the doors for their players and officials to interact with the outside world during the first part of the camp.
They freely mixed with their peers from the Premier Soccer League clubs during those numerous practice matches that they played in the first two weeks.
The PSL clubs had only tested their personnel once and they were not in a “bubble”. Add to that, players were picked and dropped at every turn as Warriors head coach Zdravko Logarusic tried to bolster his squad.
Were the new players that were incorporated tested? No. So what were the chances of importing the virus into the camp? The Warriors contingent also mixed and mingled freely with friends and officials who attended the practice games, in contravention of the “bubble” rules.
There were also images, that circulated on social media, of officials from Simba SC attending one of the Warriors’ training sessions when they came to Harare for their own Champions League game against FC Platinum.
Who cleared them to visit the team in camp? Were they tested for Covid-19? How many players and/or officials did they come into contact with?
This is not about witch-hunting or trying to play blame games. But these are just some of the questions that may help to address the problems in future.
In a way, the Warriors broke their Covid-19 regulations after they were granted the privilege to train and prepare for the CHAN tournament.
This week, they were granted the green light again to resume the preparations for the CHAN tournament.
The tournament, which is exclusively for players that ply their trade in the domestic league, is only a few days away from kick-off.
The Warriors’ participation was thrown into uncertainty after the Sports and Recreation Commission had imposed a new blanket ban on all sporting activities last week to collaborate the Government’s effort in fighting the spread of the disease following the recent rise in the cases of coronavirus.
Sport is one industry that has the capacity to fuel the spread of the disease because of the mass participation, hence extra caution is needed.
ZIFA have learnt in a hard way from the recent events. It would be untenable if another outbreak is reported in their camp. The big take-away is that there is no room for slackening up in the fight against the pandemic. Hopefully, the other associations are also picking up some priceless lessons.
The Government has put in place procedures and guidelines for the resumption of all sports in 2021. The purpose of these guidelines is to ensure that there is minimum risk of spreading the virus. There is no need to take chances once granted the exemption to train and compete in local and international events.