The Sunday Mail
Don Makanyanga Sports Reporter
THERE was something to smile about at last in the Warriors camp as coach Zdravko “Loga’’ Logarusic returned to duty yesterday and took charge of his first training session since December 28.
The Warriors preparations for the African Nations Championships (CHAN) took a huge knock when a Covid-19 outbreak hit their camp with Loga, 10 of his players, and four other officials testing positive for the virus. This forced ZIFA to halt the training camp as they placed the players, coach, and officials in isolation.
In fact, it was a double boost for the Warriors as all, but one player returned negative results following the latest round of tests carried out on Friday before training resumed yesterday.
ZIFA communications and competitions manager Xolisani Gwesela confirmed the developments in a statement.
“The Zimbabwe Football Association (ZIFA) is delighted to inform the football fraternity and the nation at large that the 15 members of the Warriors’ African Nations Championship team that had previously tested positive for Covid-19 have all tested negative save for one in the re-tests conducted on January 8 2021. The player that re-tested positive for Covid-19 will continue self-isolating while in camp, awaiting another test on January 12, 2021.
“The technical team and the 22 players declared Covid-19 free will now resume training ahead of their departure for Cameroon on January 13, 2021. ZIFA would like to assure the public that we will adhere to CAF, FIFA and SRC medical protocols before, during and after the tournament in order to mitigate the spread of the virus,’’ Gwesela said.
The ZIFA spokesman paid tribute to the association’s stakeholders for helping them navigate a difficult period that had threatened to scupper Zimbabwe’s participation.
“The association would like to thank all stakeholders for their patience and support during the dark period which severely hampered our team’s preparations. We are confident that every member of the team will be motivated by these new progressive developments to be victorious on the pitch.
“All stakeholders are reminded that Warriors’ training sessions are restricted to only authorised personnel. ZIFA appeals to all stakeholders to remain vigilant in the face of a renewed Covid-19 threat. Please observe all health and safety guidelines to keep everyone safe. The CHAN finals will be played from January 16 to February 7, 2021,’’ said Gwesela.
Warriors manager Wellington Mpandare said the player who tested positive on Friday would not be dropped from the squad despite others being placed on standby.
“We do understand that one can test positive despite having recovered, hence we will be monitoring the player, and for now he will remain in isolation until Tuesday when we will conduct the last tests ahead of departure for Cameroon on Wednesday.
“It is after the Tuesday tests that a decision on replacing any of the 23-man squad will be made.
“Despite us having players on standby, it is exciting news that the majority of the 23-man squad have tested negative. It would have had a negative impact on the team if the results had returned otherwise,” Mpandare said.
He said Loga, who was one of the six members of the technical staff that had tested positive for the virus, conducted the first training session with the squad yesterday since the Covid-19 outbreak on December 28.
“He, together with his technical staff and players, were in a jovial mood when they conducted their first training session since the outbreak of the virus.
“We lost many days because of this pandemic, and the coach needs to utilise every minute of the available time to prepare for the tournament,” said Mpandare.
Gwesela added that in the event that a player tested positive after their arrival in Cameroon, measures were in place to replace them with those on standby.
“We registered 33 players for the tournament, hence in the event that players test positive while in Cameroon we will replace them from here since we have 10 players on standby,” he said.
The Warriors are in a tough Group A which includes hosts Cameroon, Burkina Faso, and Mali. They will open their account with a date against the Indomitable Lions on Saturday night.