AFCON 2021: Over 39 players, staff tested positive for Covid-19
Africa’s greatest football showpiece has overcome Eurocentric conspiracy and will be holding over January and February 2022 in Cameroon as planned.
On ground, all is set for kick-off, effervescence taking off as teams arrive and settle in respective sites. But statistically, most of the 24 participating delegations are arriving in dispersed ranks following spiking Covid-19 cases in the wake of the 33rd Africa Cup of Nations.
At least 39 positive Covid-19 cases of players and team staff have been registered before the competition has hit the ground running.
Despite having delayed the monthlong tournament for one year, the pandemic’s surging emergence within participating delegations tells of big problems underlying glamour and excitement.
Covid-19 has deprived Nigeria’s Napoli striker Victor Osimhen of the Cameroon experience.
Gabon hold their breath two days to their first match against Comoros with hitman Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang still in isolation.
Pharaohs legend and Egypt goalkeeper coach Essam El-Hadary has been held back after testing positive for Covid-19.
Covid team sheet
Three players, Aaron Boupendza, Mario Lemina, skipper Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and deputy coach Anicet Yala tested positive for the virus.
Christian Bassoggog, Pierre Kunde Malong, Michael Ngadeu and Efala Kongeup tested positive.
Three (3) players: Pape Matar SARR, Nampalys Mendy and Mame Bamba Thiam and six (6) team staff.
Five (5) cases. 1 staff (Amadou Diallo), 4 players: Kemoko Camara, Mickael Dyrestam, Morlaye Sylla and Seydouba Soumah. Guinea arrived in Cameroon with just 24 players as the rest are confined in Kigali.
Nine (9) cases. Two days to their departure to Cameroon, Cape Verde’s coach Pedro Leitão Brito “Bubista” tested positive for Covid-19.
Seven (7) players: Vizinha, Marcio Da Rosa, Ponck, Kenny Rocha, Garry Rodrigues, Keven Ramos and Jeffry Fortes tested positive in camp, causing the annulation of their friendly with Morocco on 31 December.
Three (3) players: Issoufou Dayo, Dramane Nikiema and Kylian Nikiema. They were quarantining in Abou Dhabi while the rest flew to Cameroon. Coach Kamou Malo’s Burkina Faso is thus unstable ahead of their crunch inaugural match with hosts Cameroon.
Two (2) cases. One of the ambassadorial characters of this Afcon, Egyptian legend and goalkeeper coach Essam El-Hadary, and backup goalkeeper Mohamed Abo Gabal were tested positive for Covid-19.
Tarek Soliman has been appointed temporary goalkeeper coach while the seven-time winners’ head coach, Quieroz, is condemned to make do with remaining keepers at the tournament.
El-Hadary and Abou-Gabal are still part of Egypt’s Afcon delegation to Cameroon and would travel if they get negative test results.
Two (2) cases: Youssef Msakni and Hannibal Mejbri tested positive.
About the remaining 15 squads – whose Covid-19 situation reports have either been undisclosed or gone unnoticed – the pandemic has affected them in one way or the other.
The Africa Cup of Nations will take place as scheduled. But dealing with the pandemic is an enigma staring both fans and nations in the face.
Stories and controversies like DR Congo accusing Cameroon of falsifying Covid-19 results after a 2-1 defeat at the quarterfinal of the African Nations Championship – Chan 2020, might be inevitable.