Corona virus casts shadow on AFCON qualifiers

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Tadious Manyepo

Harare - The outbreak of the corona virus and the alarming rate at which the plague is spreading has cast a huge shadow on the upcoming 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers to be played in a fortnight.

The back-to-back matches are scheduled to take place between March 23-31.

Though the Confederation of African Football (CAF) has not yet issued a statement, some games, including the first leg of the tie between African champions Algeria and Zimbabwe could be played behind closed doors due to the virus.

Algerian authorities this week issued a blanket ban on all public gatherings, including at soccer matches.

In fact, the league games across all divisions in the North African country have been ordered to be played without any fans in attendance as the country battles to curb the spread of the disease which has since infected over 17 people in that country.

The Zimbabwe/Algeria tie wasn’t specifically mentioned but the blanket ban could mean it is affected as well.

Zimbabwe are in Group H along with Algeria and Southern Africa counterparts, Botswana and Zambia who would be battling in their own rivalry between the same period.

But it is the likelihood of some players, especially those based in Europe, to abscond national call ups which will as well blacken the qualifiers.

Already there are reports players in the English Premier League, where most of the finest players in the continent ply their trade, are likely to be barred from coming back home by their respective teams.

In Zimbabwe, Aston Villa’s Marvelous Nakamba is already a huge doubt to make it in the Warriors’ team.

In fact, the English Football Association has already barred players from pre-match shaking of hands as they take some precautionary measures to prevent the spread of the virus which started in China.

The virus has since claimed over 3 250 people while more than 91 000 have also been infected, especially in China.

African players who ply their trade in China particularly are unlikely to come and represent their countries as they haven’t been active after China suspended all sporting activities over the past two months.

Those in Italy are also unlikely to make it as the second-most hit country in the world has taken stringent measures to curb the spread of the virus.

All sporting activities in this European country are being played behind closed doors as the country battles to contain the spread of this deadly ailment.

In Southern Africa, only South Africa has had over two confirmed cases and the fact that they will be involved in the Afcon qualifiers as well as provide temporary home for Zimbabwe could as well be of concern.

Zimbabwe Football Association president, Felton Kamambo, said they will be guided by CAF on the way forward.

“At the moment, everything remains the way they should. We are going to Algeria and play them and they will also come and face us in South Africa. Nothing has been said yet so we assume everything stays unchanged.

“However, we are very much aware of the corona virus outbreak and we are taking every measure to ensure we stay safe of course with the help of authorities,” said Kamambo.

 

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