The last Senegal team affected by the virus a few days before the Africa Cup |

DAKAR, Senegal (AP) – Senegal’s national soccer team were forced to delay their flight to the Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon after three other players and six backstage staff tested positive for the coronavirus.

The Senegalese football federation named players Pape Sarr, Nampalys Mendy and Mame Thiam on Wednesday. They and six members of the management team tested positive on Tuesday, as the team was due to fly to Cameroon, the federation said.

Federation spokeswoman Kara Thioune said the team are now due to leave on Wednesday afternoon and the three players and six officials will stay in Dakar until they test negative.

The Africa Cup kicks off on Sunday and Senegal has shortly before their first game of the tournament against Zimbabwe on Monday. Senegal, with stars like Liverpool striker Sadio Mane and Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy, are among the favorites after losing in the last Africa Cup final.

News of more virus cases highlights fears that the pandemic and the recent emergence of the more contagious variant of omicron could cause chaos in the build-up and during the Africa Cup in Cameroon , where less than 3% of the population has been fully vaccinated, according to a tracker kept by Johns Hopkins University.

Top European clubs have made clear their concerns about sending their African players and wondered if organizers from Cameroon and the African Football Confederation would be able to prevent major outbreaks at the event. a month.

In response, organizers announced that only fully vaccinated fans with proof of negative testing will be able to attend matches, meaning matches will likely be played in empty or nearly empty stadiums due to very low vaccination levels in Africa. . The African Football Confederation employed the pharmaceutical company UNILAB to oversee the regular testing of all players and officials from the 24 teams.

But a growing number of teams have been hit by cases of the virus even before Africa’s biggest football tournament kicked off.

Host Cameroon announced last month that they had positive cases in their squad. Burkina Faso, who face Cameroon in the Africa Cup opener on Sunday, had to abandon players in Abu Dhabi due to the virus and may not be able to field their stronger team in the game opening of the tournament in Yaoundé.

Like Senegal, Cape Verde and Tunisia have reported new cases in their squads, while The Gambia and Cote d’Ivoire have been forced to cancel warm-up matches due to outbreaks in their squads. Malawi left three players behind in Saudi Arabia, where the team held a training camp, as they tested positive. Nigeria have left striker Victor Osimhen of Italian club Napoli absent from their Africa Cup squad due to his positive virus test.

Defending champions Algeria have also reported infections.

Senegal has already had the complication of Cheikhou Kouyaté and Alfred Gomis testing positive and staying with their European clubs to see periods of isolation.

The Africa Cup should have taken place in 2021 but was delayed for a year due to the pandemic. He has faced calls in recent months to be postponed again due to the emergence of the omicron.


Imray reported from Cape Town, South Africa. Associated Press writer Peter Kanjere in Blantyre, Malawi contributed to this story.


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