Why Mngqithi appreciates Caf health compliance officers plans to prevent Covid-19

Manqoba Mngqithi is calling for cool heads from the Mamelodi Sundowns supporters.
Manqoba Mngqithi is calling for cool heads from the Mamelodi Sundowns supporters.
Image: ©Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

Mamelodi Sundowns coach Manqoba Mngqithi has said he appreciates the Confederation of African Football (Caf) sending health compliance officers to matches to prevent Covid-19 being weaponised in the Caf Champions League.

Caf’s continental competitions can be notorious for teams utilising gamesmanship to secure any kind of advantage they can.

Caf cancelled a Confederation Cup game in Angola on the weekend when a team from Tanzania‚ Namungo‚ were quarantined on arrival to meet Primeiro de Agosto in the first leg of their playoff tie. Last month Kaizer Chiefs were denied trainings ahead of their Champions League first round matchup in Luanda against Primeiro.

Sagrada Esperanca‚ who were 1-0 down from their first leg Confed match in Angola to Orlando Pirates‚ did not show up for the second leg in South Africa citing coronavirus concerns. Last week Chiefs were denied visas to travel to Morocco for their group game against Wydad Casablanca‚ which now will be played at a neutral venue.

Such developments have raised concerns of Covid-19 being weaponised for gamesmanship purposes.

Sundowns opened their Champions League Group B campaign with a 2-0 win against Al-Hilal of Sudan at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday. Mngqithi said genuine Covid-19 positive tests had already provided a challenge for Downs in this season’s tournament.

“I think it’s that stage in the Champions League where we are playing against adversity. There is so much that is happening‚ even at home‚” Sundowns’ co-coach said.

“Because the next match we are going away [to meet CR Belouizdad in Algeria on Tuesday] and we might find that some of our players‚ even before we board the flight‚ have tested positive and it’s already a setback.

“This season you’ll remember the game that we played against Golden Arrows [a 1-1 league away draw last month] we did not have 12 of our regular players in the team. And we went to Botswana [to meet Jwaneng Galaxy] with a team that did not have [those 12 players].

“I remember our midfield in Botswana had Soumahoro Bangaly‚ Mothobi Mvala‚ and Andile Jali‚ because we were struggling with numbers. And people were thinking we were keeping players for Botswana [against Arrows].

“They only realised when were in Botswana that Themba Zwane‚ Gaston Sirino and Rivaldo Coetzee were not there – these players who had been playing regularly. And the truth is this season is going to be like that.

“But I think Caf must be commended for trying to have compliance officers coming from different countries. Because our worry was if you are going to a country and you get tested‚ and they cheat you‚ you could end up having a lot of players testing positive whilst they are not.

“But Caf are trying to address that because they know that in the Champions League anything can happen – people like to cheat in this space.

“So we are looking forward to it [this season’s tournament] knowing very well that it is not going to be an easy one‚ because it has got a lot of things that are happening.

“Just now Kaizer Chiefs could not go to Morocco because of the laws of that country. The same can still apply. We were still thinking that Algeria might have a problem with us‚ but fortunately it looks like we are getting the visas for Algeria.

“So this thing is going to be a bit tough‚ but we will have to see it through. Fortunately this season I think our team has been tested a lot – we have had a lot of setbacks. And we are trying to fight through those setbacks to get ourselves into a better space.”

Sundowns have a home DStv Premiership game against Baroka FC at Loftus on Wednesday before travelling to Algeria.

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