DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — Senegal’s national soccer team was forced to delay its flight to the African Cup of Nations in Cameroon after three more players and six members of the backroom staff tested positive for the coronavirus.
The Senegalese soccer federation named the players on Wednesday as Pape Sarr, Nampalys Mendy and Mame Thiam. They and six members of the management team tested positive on Tuesday, when the squad was scheduled to fly to Cameroon, the federation said.
The federation said the team should now leave on Wednesday. It didn't say if the three players and officials would also travel or remain in Dakar in isolation, only that it had “made arrangements for the effective care of the people concerned.”
The African Cup starts on Sunday and Senegal has little time before its first game of the tournament against Zimbabwe on Monday. Senegal, with stars like Liverpool forward Sadio Mane and Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy, is one of the favorites after losing in the final at the last African Cup.
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 at the African Cup in Cameroon, where less than 3% of the population has been fully vaccinated, according to a tracker kept by Johns Hopkins University.
Cape Verde and Tunisia have also reported new cases in their squads, while Gambia and Ivory Coast were forced to cancel warmup games because of outbreaks in their squads. Malawi has left three players behind in Saudi Arabia, where the team had a training camp, because they tested positive. Nigeria left striker Victor Osimhen of Italian club Napoli out if its African Cup squad because of his positive virus test.
Senegal already had the complication of Cheikhou Kouyaté and Alfred Gomis testing positive and staying behind with their European clubs to see out isolation periods.
Imray reported from Cape Town, South Africa. Associated Press writer Peter Kanjere in Blantyre, Malawi, contributed to this story.
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Babacar Dione And Gerald Imray, The Associated Press