ZIMBABWE’s participation at next month’s African Nations Championship (Chan) finals is in doubt after Warriors coach Zdravko Logarušic was said to be among the 14 players and officials who contracted the virus.
Nine of the 23 players in the final squad tested positive for COVID-19 upon their return to camp on Monday.
Five members of the technical team also tested positive including Logarušic.
The players that tested positive have been isolated, while those that tested negative stayed in camp, but training has been suspended as Zifa consults stakeholders that include the government and the Confederations of African Football (Caf).
Warriors team manager Wellington Mupandare yesterday said another round of testing would be conducted today in case some of the negative tests were still in the incubation period.
Mupandare said 11 new players have been put on standby and ready to fill the gaps.
The eleven players that have been put on standby are Devon Chafa, Nqobizitha Masuku, Valentine Musarurwa, Tymon Mvula, Diro Nyenye, Frank Makarati, Ishmael Wadi, Tichaona Chipunza, Thomas Chideu, Phineas Bamusi and Jeansmith Mutudza.
However, the new players will also have to be tested before they are allowed to join camp.
Those, who will test positive for the virus will need to be quarantined for a mandatory 10-day period before they are cleared to join camp.
But with Caf registration deadline a week away, the Warriors technical team is in a quandary.
“Everything now hinges on the outcome of tomorrow’s tests,” Mupandare said when asked about the Warriors’ Chan participation status.
The Warriors are expected to leave for the finals on January 10.
The Chan finals, a tournament reserved for players plying their trade in their respective domestic leagues, kicks off on January 16 with Zimbabwe taking on hosts Cameroon.
Logarušic had hoped to have two friendly matches against Premier Soccer League sides before they travelled to Cameroon after they failed to organise international friendlies.
Already, the coach was worried about the team’s fitness levels ahead of the tournament considering that the players have not played competitively all year.
The domestic topflight league failed to take off due to the pandemic and it is hoped that it will return in March.
However, surge in infections has cast doubt on the resumption in March considering that local football, unlike other sporting disciplines cannot afford the bio-bubble concept.
Zimbabwe are in Group A and will face hosts Cameroon in the tournament curtain raiser. Mali and Burkina Faso are the other group members.
Warriors Chan squad
Goalkeepers: Ariel Sibanda (Highlanders), Simba Chinani (Dynamos), Nelson Chadya (Ngezi)
Defenders: Peter Muduwa (Highlanders), Partson Jaure (Dynamos), Tafadzwa Jaravani (CAPS Utd), Ian Nekati (Chicken Inn), Qadr Amini (Ngezi), Carlos Mavhurume (CAPS Utd), Pawell Govere (Golden Eagles), Andrew Mbeba (Highlanders), Talent Chamboko (Manica Diamonds)
Midfielders: Richard Hachiro (CAPS Utd), Ronald Chitiyo (CAPS Utd), Gabriel Nyahwa (Bulawayo Chiefs), Wellington Taderera (Ngezi), Leeroy Mavunga (CAPS Utd), Tatenda Tavengwa (Harare City), King Nadolo (Dynamos), Denver Mukamba (Ngezi)
Strikers: Obriel Chirinda (Chicken Inn), Tawanda Nyamandwe (Manica Diamonds), Farawo Matare (Bulawayo Chiefs)