The Warriors can now resume their preparations for the CHAN finals to be held in Cameroon after getting the Government’s clearance to participate in this biannual football fiesta.
The rescheduled tournament, which is reserved for players plying their trade in their domestic leagues, runs from January 16 to February 7.
Originally, the tournament was pencilled to unfold between April 4-25 last year but it had to be shelved due to the raging Covid-19 storm.
The Warriors haven’t trained together since December 21 last year after 15 Covid-19 positive cases were recorded upon their regrouping on December 28.
Nine players and six officials, including coach Zdravko Logarusic, returned positive results to the new coronavirus and the squad has been in quarantine for the past 10 days.
They are expected to go for another round of tests on Sunday with those who return positive results set to be replaced.
In light of rising cases of Covid-19 being recorded daily, the Sports Commission issued a blanket ban on all sporting activities in the country and the Warriors’ trip to Cameroon was looking increasingly uncertain.
But ZIFA made a swift application for a waiver early this week and yesterday the Warriors were granted permission to travel to Cameroon for the event.
ZIFA confirmed the development in a statement yesterday.
“The Zimbabwe Football Association advises the nation that our application to proceed with participation at the African Nations Championship (CHAN) has been approved by the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC).
“This follows the Government’s recent suspension of all sporting activities in a national effort to reduce the spread of Covid-19. The Association would like to acknowledge and thank the SRC for swift processing of our request to keep our preparations for the important assignment on track,” read the statement from ZIFA spokesperson, Xolisani Gwesela.
ZIFA revealed that the 15 people who tested positive on December 28, including nine players, would be tested again on Sunday.
“The team is still in camp, self-isolating, after recording 15 positive tests for Covid-19. Players and officials who tested positive on 28 December 2020 will be tested again on 10th January 2021.”
ZIFA initially wanted the Warriors to leave on Sunday but they will have to delay a bit to allow for the testing and possible replacements of personnel if there are any who return positive results.
The team will now depart on January 13 ahead of their opening match against hosts Cameroon on January 16.
They will also face Burkina Faso and Mali in the Yaoundé-based Group A.
But most importantly is the fact that the team will now have time to train together at least.
Coach Logarusic has always raised concern over the match-fitness levels of his squad given the domestic league wasn’t played last season.
In fact, he had to conduct a series of practice matches against local clubs to pick the squad he has in camp at the moment, a move that was met with mixed feelings by football stakeholders across the board.
But he argued that he was trying to come up with those who would fit in his philosophy and he had hoped to work on the combinations and tactical training from December 28.
However, Covid-19 denied him that chance and if everything returns to normal then he and his charges will have to move mountains if they are to stand any chance of making any impact at the tournament.
“The Warriors are the only team in Group A which consists of Cameroon, Mali and Burkina Faso with players who have not played competitive football the entire 2020. Already, that is a very massive disadvantage and we need to work on all aspects of the game before we plunge into battle,” said Loga, some weeks ago.
“It’s very difficult but we will have to pick the best 23 players who we will engage in intensive training for two weeks starting from December 28 (last year). We will see how we progress but I am sure inside two weeks we can build a competitive team.”
The two weeks are literally up and the Croat, appointed in February last year, will have to make maximum use of the few remaining days to build a team.
Warriors squad for CHAN
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), Shadreck Nyahwa (Byo (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)
Defenders: Frank Makarati (Ngezi Platinum), Valentine Musarurwa (Harare City), Munyaradzi Diro-Nyenye (CAPS United)
Midfielders: Devon Chafa (Ngezi Platinum), Juan Mutudza (Dynamos), Phineas Bhamusi (CAPS United), Ishmael Wadi (CAPS United) Nqobizitha Masuku (Highlanders), Tichaona Chipunza (Chicken Inn)
Strikers: Thomas Chideu (Harare City)