Harare – Southern African national soccer teams head into next month’s 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers without their England-based stars.
This is because English Premier League clubs unanimously agreed to withhold players from travelling to countries on the United Kingdom’s COVID-19 red-list. The whole of Southern Africa is on the UK’s Covid-19 red-list.
African teams play World Cup qualifiers between September 1 and 8. Players, like any other travellers, are subject to preventive quarantine and it is against this background that EPL sides have opted to bar players from going to countries designated as COVID-19 hotspots.
Africa is only starting to emerge from a third wave of the pandemic, amidst fears of a fourth, and vaccination rates have been low due to a number of factors.
Hardest hit in Southern Africa by the EPL injunction are South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe, who between them have several players in the English topflight.
Among these are Zambia’s Patson daka (Leicester City) and Enock Mwepu (Brighton and Hove Albion); and Zimbabwe’s Marvellous Nakamba (Aston Villa), and Tawanda Maswanhise (Leicester City).
Should the entire UK soccer league leadership follow the same lead as the topflight, then Zimbabwe will also be without Tendayi Darikwa, Jordan Zemura, Admiral Muskwe, Brendan Galloway and David Moyo. Such a decision will also affect Fashion Sakala of Zambia.
South Africa’s Brighton and Hove midfielder Percy Tau is reportedly in South Africa, but it is not yet clear if the English club will allow him to stay for the World Cup qualifiers or order him to return to the UK before then.
In March, players also failed to travel for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers due to the logistical complications posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.