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COVID-19 shadow on Africa's soccer tourney

By TONDERAYI MUKEREDZI in Harare | | Updated: 2022-01-07 21:03
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COVID-19 is threatening to derail the thirty-third edition of the TotalEnergies African Cup of Nations soccer tournament, as players and staff members of about seven national teams have tested positive for the virus ahead of the start of the tournament on Sunday. Those who have tested positive belong to Senegal, Gabon, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Tunisia and Malawi.

The tournament roars into life on Sunday with a match between hosts Cameroon and Burkina Faso at the Olembe Stadium in Yaoundé, the capital.

Twenty-four nations are taking part in the biennial tournament which ends on Feb 6, including Zimbabwe's national team, the Warriors. The 24 teams are divided into six groups with the winners and the runner-ups of each group reaching the round of 16.

Zimbabwe's Warriors will play Senegal, the bookies' favorites to win the tournament, on Monday.

Organizers of the tournament, the Confederation of African Football, have decided to continue with the tournament albeit under very strict COVID-19 restrictions despite the threat of the pandemic on the tournament.

In a joint statement issued in December, the CAF and the government of Cameroon had said that supporters must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and show a negative test result before entering stadiums. CAF said it would use an independent, internationally recognized laboratory to test the national team players and their delegations.

In additional COVID-19 regulations announced on Jan 4, CAF said stadium capacity for the host nation's matches would be limited to 80 percent while the other fixtures will only be played in front of 60 percent of the ground's capacity.

In spite of the precautions, COVID-19 is threatening to derail the tournament as players and staff members of about seven national teams — including Senegal, Gabon, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Tunisia and Malawi — have tested positive for the coronavirus ahead of the start of the competition.

The bookies other favorites to win the Cup apart from Senegal include Algeria, Egypt, Ivory Coast and Morocco. Morocco are the current AFCON champions, having won the tournament in 2019.

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