Senior Sports Reporter
ZIMBABWE’S participation at this year’s CHAN tournament was thrown in disarray following the declaration of additional national COVID-19 lockdown measures and the blanket suspension on all sporting activities announced by the Sports and Recreation Commission at the weekend.
The local football mother-body, ZIFA, who were already battling to contain a serious Covid-19 outbreak in the Warriors camp, yesterday said football was in deep crisis.
The Warriors are expected to feature at the sixth addition of the CHAN tournament set to begin in Cameroon in exactly two weeks time.
They were scheduled to leave for Cameroon next Monday but the trip now needs fresh clearance from the Ministry of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation.
ZIFA spokesperson, Xolisani Gwesela, yesterday said they have since approached both the Sports Commission and CAF for guidance.
They have also sought relief for FC Platinum who are currently representing the nation in the CAF Champions League.
“We have seen and read the additional lockdown measures announced by the Government and we respect the move because it is meant to safeguard peoples’ lives and good health,” said Gwesela.
“But as you know we have the CHAN tournament coming up and we also have a club that is participating in the CAF inter-club competitions.
“So 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 for the CHAN tournament.
“We have also applied for special waiver to allow FC Platinum to continue with their participation in the CAF Champions League,” said Gwesela.
ZIFA had been granted permission last November to prepare and participate in CAF tournaments following the gradual lifting of the initial lockdown measures. But they will need to re-apply to the Government for special waivers.
The new Covid-19 measures were announced in response to the surge in coronavirus cases, which have almost doubled between November 2020 and December 31, 2020.
The Warriors’ camp was hit by an outbreak of coronavirus last week after nine players and five officials, including coach Zdravko Logarusic, returned positive tests.
The team members were tested upon their return from the Christmas break and there are fears of more positive cases after repeat tests were conducted at the weekend for those that had initially tested negative.
With almost half of their squad and the majority of their technical team, who include coach Logarusic, down with the virus, ZIFA find themselves in a catch-22 situation head of the CAF deadline to register their final squad of 23 players, which has been set for this Wednesday.
“The players that tested positive are still in quarantine and will be tested again after 10 days from the date they returned the positive tests. Those that were negative have been tested again and we are still waiting for the results.
“It is indeed a crisis. We have since notified CAF of the situation that we find ourselves in,” said Gwesela.
The additional lockdown measures have also thrown doubt on the resumption of the domestic Premiership that had been scheduled for next month. The new lockdown measures will only be reviewed on January 31.
The Premier Soccer League had hoped to get the 2021 season underway in February after investing in health and safety protocols for the safe return of the game.
Most of the clubs had hoped to regroup this week to continue with their pre-season preparations after they had released their players for the Christmas break.
PSL chairman, Farai Jere, yesterday said the stakeholders will meet this week to discuss the new lockdown developments.
“We are yet to sit down with the stakeholders to make an assessment of these new lockdown measures. We have to try and find ways to minimize the impact on football.
“This is something that was only announced last night so we can probably only be able to discuss from Monday going forward.
“But from the onset of this pandemic, as PSL we have always maintained that health comes first. This is a natural disaster and we have accepted that it’s a force majeure, which no one has control over.
“Covid-19 is real and we would need to protect our constituency and those around us from the pandemic in the best way possible,” said Jere.