60 aspiring stars in anxious wait

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Tadious Manyepo

Harare – More than 60 footballers from all across Africa will have to wait a little longer to go for trials with soccer clubs in Europe as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to place restrictions on travel and sporting activities.

The players – from DRC, Gambia, Guinea, Mali, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe – were scheduled to go for trails between March and August this year.

The crop of aspiring professionals is attached to the Cayor Foot Academy in Senegal.

Cayor Foot Academy, which also operates as Diambars Academy in South Africa, has in recent times become the biggest window of opportunity for African footballers who want to break into lucrative leagues overseas.

Zimbabwean striker Tino Kadewere, who joined French giants Olympique Lyon from second tier side Le Havre, is a product of Diambars Academy; as is Bafana Bafana forward Lebo Mothiba, who currently plays for Racing Strasbourg in France.

COVID-19 has forced the academy to shelve trials in Belgium, France, Portugal, Spain and Sweden.

The academy's Southern Africa chief scout Eric Bafana this week said, “We had sent several players for trials in Europe from our academy when the coronavirus pandemic hit us. We have many players from South Africa, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Malawi and Zambia under the radar Cayor Foot Academy. 

"Some of them had spent just days into their trials with European teams when COVID-19 started to ravage through the world"

One of the players who had hoped to make it in Europe, Brandon Nyagurungo from Zimbabwe, is waiting anxiously to find out if that window of opportunity has been permanently closed.

"I had just joined Cayor Foot Academy when the pandemic hit the world," said Nyagurungo. "I was hoping to hit the ground running. My chance to go for European trials was close when the coronavirus scourge came upon us. 

"I am currently back home in Zimbabwe and just hoping that all will be well sooner rather than later."

France-based Cayor Foot Academy president Pierre Mathieu said they had many players on their books who were good enough to make the grade in Europe but they would have to wait a little longer to try their luck.

"We have not been able to seal potential European deals for our Cayor Foot Academy players due to the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic. To make matters worse, most of the European teams have been financially hamstrung by the scourge," said Mathieu. 

"At the moment, we are grounded. Airlines are closed, borders are closed and we have stopped training. Everything happened so sudden. We had players who had gone to Europe for trials and we had to rush them back after clubs there indicated they were closing due to COVID-19…

"We can't lose all hope, but the fact is the pandemic has frozen our operations which include taking African players to Europe."

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