How Caf clubs have ‘weaponised’ COVID-19

GHANAIAN side Asante Kotoko are livid. FC Platinum of Zimbabwe described it as horror. And at least one coach is alleged to have resigned over it. It’s the stories of questionable COVID-19 test results and it goes on.

Plateau United coach Abdul Maikaba described away matches in African football as a terrible experience marked by foul tactics deployed by some home teams to win matches.

“When the players and officials of Plateau United were tested in Nigeria for COVID-19, the result came out negative,” Maikaba told a Nigerian publication.

“On arriving in Tanzania, we presented the test results to the immigration officials. They now conducted another test on the team five minutes before the game and told the match commissioner that our two key players, who were supposed to start the game, had tested positive.”

The coach revealed that after the game, they secretly went to a hospital in Tanzania to test the players alleged to be COVID-19 positive, and the result came out negative.

Simba won the tie 1-0 on aggregate.

History is littered with examples of travelling team not being assigned training grounds and being driven long distances on match day.

The “old tactics” also include residing in shanty hotels and delays at airports. COVID-19 seemed to have handed Africa a new 4-4-2.

Ugandan side KCCA could attribute their exit at the hands of AS Kigali to COVID-19, too. They travelled with 16 players and three tested positive leaving them with 13.

Continental body Caf requires that teams should have at least 15 players and due to COVID-19 allowed clubs to register 40 players this season, all of whom must have local licenses.

KCCA registered 32. The away leg was awarded 2-0 to As Kigali and despite a 3-1 victory last week in Kampala, exited on away goals’ rule.

While KCCA are not whining, Asante Kotoko, that previously had Uganda Cranes’ defender Joseph Ochaya on their books, have lodged a formal complaint after elimination by Al Hilal.

Kotoko had arrived in Sudan with enough players for the game to go ahead but then seven players returned positive COVID-19 tests, leaving them short on the minimum numbers.

Like Plateau, they disputed the results and pointed out one test was also missing but Caf match commissioner Amir Hassan ruled that the game could not go ahead.

Two-time winners Kotoko said in a statement that they “will use all legitimate measures to ensure the right thing is done”.

However, they aren’t saints either. Al Hilal had two players barred from the first leg tie in Ghana after COVID-19 tests.

An hour to the game, the Sudanese club said on their social media page that they had carried out three different tests from laboratories and returned negative results.

Match officials were notified but the request to admit the players into the line-up was denied.

In the previous round, Kotoko’s second leg game was called off when Mauritania’s Nouadhibou had two of their 16-man squad return positive COVID-19 tests on arrival in Ghana.

Nouadhibou had disputed the results of the tests carried out in Ghana.

In Zimbabwe, one website described the events preceding the elimination of Platinum by Simba as, “Horror in Tanzania as five Platinum players test ‘positive’ for COVID-19 … results are first availed to Simba.”

What makes the whole drama stink is the timing of the release of the results, two hours before kick-off when coach Norman Mapeza had already settled for his final starting 11.

Simba overturned a 1-0 loss from the first leg to win 4-1 on aggregate with the visitors playing under protest.

In a post-match interview with club media on Simba YouTube, coach Sven Vandenbroeck said: “Coronavirus can help or will decide a lot of games in the future and in the next months in the Champions League.”

Vandenbroeck parted ways with the club the following day. South African club Bloemfontein Celtics did not travel to Nigeria to play Rivers United last week after government refused to relax restrictions. Nigeria demands that all foreigners, especially from the UK and South Africa, entering its soil go into a mandatory seven-day quarantine on arrival on top of presenting a negative PCR [polymerase chain reaction] result done 48 hours before travelling.

This meant Celtics had to arrive by December 29 for the January 6 game.

Uganda Cranes have not been spared. Team manager Paul Mukatabala says they had fears of South Sudan applying the crude tactics last November after learning of the ordeal of Kenya national team while away in Comoros.

He said the onus is on Caf to take full charge of the exercise.

“It’s a big challenge because visiting teams do not travel with their own labaratories in which they can do COVID-19 tests,” Mukatabala said.

“It’s time Caf came up with own medical teams to test players of both sides before matches, instead of relying on doctors of hosting teams.”

Daily Monitor Sports has contacted Caf for a comment on these allegations by the clubs.

Caf rules says a team must present at least 15 players for a match. Host teams use this to ensure that visitors have fewer players and lose match by forfeiture.

Host teams also target certain players in visitor teams and have them tested positive to miss out.
— DailyMonitor

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