Sports Editorial: COVID-19 Major Decider Of AFCON Winner

Sports Editorial: COVID-19 Major Decider Of AFCON Winner
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It’s barely 48 hours to the first game of the 2021 African Cup of Nations , AFCON, at the Stade Paul Biya Stadium in Yaounde, between the host Cameroon against outsiders of the competition Burkina Faso, yet the deadly virus has already shown its face by affecting some players even before the start of the competition.

The Gabon National Team will on Monday 10th of January 2021 kick off their first game against Comoros without their talisman and Captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Mario Lemina who respectively tested positive for the virus on arrival into Cameroon.

Senegal’s National Team was forced to delay its flight from Dakar to Cameroon for the AFCON after three players and six members of the backroom staff tested positive for coronavirus.

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The Senegalese Football Federation later named the players as Pape Sarr, Nampalys Mendy, and Mame Thiam. The above-mentioned players were left behind in Dakar to isolate and will later join up with the team after testing negative of the virus.

The news of more virus cases underlines fears that the pandemic and the recent emergence of the more contagious Omicron Variant will cause chaos in the buildup and during the course of the competition in Cameroon, where less than 3% of the population has been fully vaccinated.

Top European clubs have made clear their concerns over sending their African players and have questioned if Cameroon and African Football Confederation Organizers will be able to prevent major outbreaks at the month-long event.

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While clubs like Napoli FC, Watford FC, and even Saudi Arabian club Al Shabab FC have all stopped their players from the competition. With players like Victor Oshimen, Emmanuel Dennis, and Odion Ighalo who despite being given the No. 9 shirt by Coach Augustine Egueavon will be missing because his club Al Shabab refused him from playing for Nigeria at the FIFA recognized competition.

However, CAF extended the number of players for the competition from 23 to 28 because of the ongoing pandemic that seems like it’s not going away any time soon.

Teams will need every luck they can get in order to play the whole competition without Covid disrupting their performance and also taking out key players especially in the latter stage of the competition.

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With the possibility of more cases during the competition, there is every chance that the winner of this competition might be because of absentees from their opponents.

The African Cup of Nations 2021 kicks off on Sunday 9th of January to Sunday 6th of February, 2022.


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