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Warriors-Algeria AFCON Qualifier Hangs In The Balance Over Coronavirus

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By Anna Chibamu

THE Zimbabwe Football Association (ZIFA) has raised concern over the safety of players, technical staff and supporters who are due to travel to Algeria for the senior national team’s AFCON qualifier over fears of the coronavirus.

The Warriors are scheduled to play the Desert Foxes in Algiers on 23 March before playing host to the North African team at a venue yet to be confirmed on 29 March.

However, giving oral evidence before parliament’s youth and sports committee on Thursday, ZIFA finance executive Philemon Machana said the football mother body has since written to the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC) and Confederation of African Football (CAF), advising them that it was unsafe for the Warriors to travel and play in Algeria due to the dreaded disease.

Algeria is the hardest coronavirus hit country on the continent with 25 positive cases confirmed to date.

“We have written to Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC) seeking permission or to get advise if it is safe for the team to travel to Algeria to play this match in light of the scourge,” Machana said.

“We wrote to CAF two days ago, to follow up on the matter to say so far our government has banned travels for all civil servants.

“They (CAF) said they are going to respond. It is not surprising that this ban may even be extended to the national teams.

“For us, we are also trying to buy time if they postpone this match for the reason of coronavirus, because they had mentioned our appeal had failed because there is no more time to come and inspect (our stadia) and do the logistics,” he said.

The MPs also supported ZIFA’s position on the possible postponement of the Algeria match until the coronavirus was under control.

“It is actually very dangerous to play Algeria whether in South Africa, Algeria or any other country. Algeria is the epicenter of coronavirus in Africa like in Europe it is Italy. In a way of trying to support them to have the postponement of matches,” said MP Eric Murai.

Meanwhile, ZIFA President Felton Kamambo said Zimbabwe was yet to find a neutral venue for the Warriors to host the Desert Foxes match.

This was after CAF banned Zimbabwe from playing any international matches at home due to the derelict state of the Zimbabwean stadia.

He said the association was still waiting to get feedback from the South African Football Association (SAFA) on whether Zimbabwe could use Orlando Stadium in Soweto, as a home ground for the match.