in Africa, the national selections face the puzzle of the coronavirus

Algeria will have to do without Youcef Atal.  The OGC Nice player (here during a match in Prague, November 5, 2020) has tested positive for Covid-19.

It’s a real headache. The establishment of a very strict health protocol by the African Football Confederation (CAF) for the third and fourth qualifying days for the 2022 African Cup of Nations (CAN), spread between Wednesdays 11 and 18 November, leaves up to a series of boondoggles and canceled matches. After the postponements and postponements of competitions, which have been redesigning the calendar since the spring, the Covid-19 continues to shake the African football planet.

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For the current days, the recommendations are clear, as Alexandre Siewe, CAF communications director explains: We cannot postpone a match because of Covid-19. If a team refuses to play for this reason, they will lose the game 0-2. In other words, any match should be played if a team has at least eleven players, including a goalkeeper, and four substitutes. And the penalty of a 0-2 defeat will also be applied if a team cannot move or receive for reasons related to the epidemic.

Blocked abroad

Tested positive for Covid-19, some players will not return to their national selection. Thus, Algeria will not play Youcef Atal, Guinea must forget Amadou Diawara, Madagascar will do without Anicet Abel and Congo-Brazzaville of Thievy Bifouma … It is sometimes difficult even for the coaches to know who they can count on . Because other sportsmen, negative this time, are blocked in their clubs abroad. This is the case of Beninese Cebio Soukou (Germany) and Jordan Adéoti (Norway), who will not be released. “Otherwise they would have been quarantined on their return to the club”, explains Michel Dussuyer, the French coach of the Squirrels.

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In addition to these constraints linked to the application of preventive isolation measures, there are more general travel bans, such as that imposed by the Italian government, which makes it impossible for players who are members of a club to travel abroad. one positive case was discovered. Likewise, Ivorian Jean-Evrard Kouassi, who had yet received permission from his club in Wuhan Zall, China, to find the Elephants in Abidjan to face Madagascar, was notified of a ban on leaving Chinese territory. – a measure in his eyes not justified.

The team opposite is also experiencing uncertainties that complicate the task. “We have to face multiple health constraints”, deplores Mamod’Ali Hawel, chief of staff of the Madagascan sports minister, who explains that “Romain Metanire, who plays for Minnesota United, had to provide the American authorities with a special certificate from the Madagascan federation proving that he was called up for selection, which delayed his arrival in Abidjan “.

Closed matches

In addition to the players, technical staff and accompanying persons must also undergo tests before each match. Thus, on the occasion of the double confrontation between Algeria and Zimbabwe, on November 12 and 17 in Algiers and Harare, all of each delegation must be tested either when arriving at the airport or at the hotel. . “All the federations are committed to having tests done, as CAF demanded. The costs are high, but it is essential, believes Mohamed Saad, secretary general of the Algerian federation. The results are known four hours later. The deadlines between matches are very short, you have to be fixed very quickly.

The pandemic has also forced the selections to adapt their modes of travel, since some air links have become even more problematic than before. Thus, Niger could travel in the same plane as Ethiopia to reach Addis Ababa after the first leg in Niamey, on November 13 (return on November 17). “This is the solution that seems to be emerging in order to avoid too long a trip “, specifies the French Jean-Michel Cavalli, the coach of Niger. The option of private flights was also chosen by Cameroon to join Mozambique, and by Morocco, which will face the Central African Republic in Yaoundé. And the Algerian federation, in order to limit the interactions of its internationals evolving in Europe and in the Persian Gulf, put at their disposal a private plane in Paris so that they join Algiers. “When we return from Zimbabwe, which we will join by another private flight, the aircraft from Paris will leave Algiers to fly them to France”, explains Mohamed Saad.

Little glimmer of hope at the heart of this world of complications? CAF, after decreeing that all the matches of the third and fourth days would be played behind closed doors, finally left the choice to the governments of the countries concerned to decide whether they allowed the presence of the public. Most of them, such as Morocco, Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire or Algeria, have opted for closed session. In other cases, the number of spectators will necessarily be limited.


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