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Coronavirus and African football: How is the continent responding to Covid-19?

13:04 GMT+3 13/03/2020
Michael Olunga of Kenya during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations Finals Kenya
The pandemic is severely affecting the sports schedule around the world, but how is Africa responding?

Sports scheduling is being hit hard by the coronavirus, with Formula 1, rugby, NHL and NBA among the disciplines and leagues calling off events or suspending competition until the spread and impact of Covid-19 is controlled.

Football has not been untouched. Premier League fixtures have been suspended, with Arsenal coach Mikel Arteta diagnosed with the illness, while other leagues such as Major League Soccer and Ligue 1 have been suspended.

In Italy, one of the countries most significantly affected by the coronavirus, Serie A players have tested positive for Covid-19 , while Conmebol have postponed South American World Cup qualifiers and the Copa Libertadores.

But how Is Africa responding to the treat of this global pandemic?

Here’s a nation-by-nation update of how various African nations are altering their footballing schedule in light of the coronavirus.

Morocco

The Royal Moroccan Football Federation (FRMF) has ordered all matches to be played behind closed doors to minimise the risk of the virus spreading.

Egypt

Earlier this week, Egypt, where the virus is present, confirmed that they will play their domestic league games behind closed doors.

Algeria

Following in the same pattern as their North African neighbours, Algeria have opted to ban fans from attending Algerian Ligue Professionnelle 1 matches.

Tunisia

The Tunisian sports ministry announced on Thursday that various sports would be suspended amidst concerns about the virus, although for the moment, football remains untouched, with matches set to continue—with fan attendance—as normal this weekend.

However, the Tunisian Super Cup has been postponed, with a date not yet announced.

South Africa

South Africa, like Morocco and Egypt, have confirmed cases of the coronavirus, and the Premier Soccer League responded by suspending handshakes before matches.

Similarly, the PSL have announced various measures to be adhered to by fans in order to reduce the spread of the illness within stadia.

Tanzania

Like South Africa, Tanzania have suspended all shaking of hands during matches, as they look to reduce the risk of transmission between players.

Nigeria

Nigeria has confirmed cases of the coronavirus, but the NPFL have stated that—for the time being—local games will not be suspended.

However, the federation have insisted on a strict observance of a checklist of certain medical equipment and checks which must be present and carried out ahead of and during league games, in order to ensure the welfare of players.

Amaju Pinnick, the President of the Nigeria Football Federation has said that the NFF are in close communication with the country's Ministry of Health and the Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) ahead of the Super Eagles' upcoming qualifiers against Sierra Leone.

Ghana

Despite cases being announced in Ghana, the GFA announced on Thursday that domestic football would continue as normal, although the federation are monitoring the situation.

The decision was taken after a global pandemic was declared by the World Health Organisation.

Kenya

The Harambee Stars squad for their upcoming Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers has been affected, with Michael Olunga (based in Japan) and Masoud Juma (Algeria) set to miss out on the double-header against the Comoros .

That’s if the match even takes place, with the Kenyan Federation approaching Caf requesting a postponement of the fixture in light of directives from the government.

Domestically, the Kenyan Premier League will continue, but the FKF have suspended the lower leagues.

Former local football chief Sam Nyamweya has called on the Football Kenya Federation to call off the national elections slated for March 27 owing to the threat of coronavirus.

Cameroon

The Central African nation is set to host the 2020 African Nations Championship—the tournament for home-based players—in April, but as yet the competition is set to go ahead, although Caf have revealed that they are monitoring the situation.

African internationals

At the time of writing, the Confederation of African Football have not opted to reschedule the March Afcon qualifiers, despite the Asian and South American confederations confirming that their upcoming international fixtures will be rescheduled.