WARRIORS coach Zdravko Logarusic says the Covid-19 pandemic brought his CHAN plans into disarray but insists his charges are capable of doing the job at the tournament.
The rescheduled biannual CHAN football finals kick-off in Cameroon on Saturday and run until February 7.
The contest, reserved for only players plying their trade in their respective domestic leagues, was originally penciled to be played from April 4-25 last year but CAF was forced to shelve it due to Covid-19. Zimbabwe’s domestic league has been on hold since then and Logarusic had to embark on a rather unorthodox exercise between November and December last year, playing friendly matches with local teams, to come up with his preferred men for the tricky mission.But just when he thought he would be having two weeks to work on combinations, having picked his final 23-man squad on December 28, nine players and five officials, including the Croat himself, tested positive to coronavirus, forcing everything to come to a halt.
Matters were complicated even further when the Sports Commission banned all sporting activities in this country until at least January 31 to help put a stop to rising Covid-19 cases.
Logarusic’s men only resumed preparations for the prestigious event over the weekend following their clearance by the Sports Commission.
Logarusic had also received a major boost after all but one player from the 14 members, who had initially tested positive, returned negative results from the ailment.
But, for players who have not played competitive football since December 2019 to have proper training for just four days before leaving for a major tournament is a major source of worry for the Croat who was appointed in February last year. He has CHAN experience as a coach though, having previously guided Sudan to the semi-finals and the Warriors are also one of the most experienced sides, having played in four previous CHAN finals, with a single semi-final berth under their belt.
“We are plunging into the CHAN battle with more disadvantages than any other team at the finals,” said Logarusic.
“This Covid-19 thing is our Number One enemy. Firstly, we wouldn’t go and play the CHAN finals as scheduled in April (2020).
“It’s also because of Covid-19 that the Zimbabwe local season failed to open for the year 2020.
“We had to devise a way to counter that when we assembled early in November to allow ourselves some sufficient time to prepare.
“We made some good progress, deliberately chopping and changing the squad for philosophy alignment.
“And we had to give the players some break over Christmas holidays so that they would have some time with their families.
“But, well Covid-19 again wouldn’t give us time to prepare the final team for the tournament.
“We needed to work on almost all aspects of the game since our players never got the opportunity to play competitive football for the entire 2020.
“Football is scientific and I have always said it involves physical, mental, tactical and technical aspects.
“In all those four, we are behind our schedule but then that’s what it is. We can’t control the situation.” Loga, however, believes his players are capable of matching their opponents if they can focus on the positives.
“What we need to do is concentrate on the positives. We have had several negatives since last year but what distinguishes Warriors from the rest of the pack is their ability to win fights even under difficult circumstances.
“We need to go out there and show that we are Warriors. We are fighters and we can win even under difficult situations.
“We cannot go to a tournament to add up numbers, no. We are going there to compete and we will compete.”
The Warriors will undergo a final Covid-19 test today ahead of their departure for Cameroon tomorrow. Those who return a positive test will be replaced by players who have been put on standby and have been self-isolating at home. Zimbabwe play the CHAN opener against hosts Cameroon on Saturday at 6pm.
They will also face Burkina Faso and Mali in the same group.