ZIMBABWE received a boost yesterday after Marvelous Nakamba and Jordan Zemura were cleared to play in the back-to-back 2022 World Cup qualifiers, against Ghana, which get underway next week.
Under the deal agreed to by the English Premier League, the British Government and the country’s health authorities, fully vaccinated players will be able to travel to World Cup qualifiers in countries on the UK Covid-19 red list.
Nakamba and Zemura have received the two Covid-19 jabs, which clears them to play in both matches.
However, the Warriors will not benefit fully from the arrangement, after it emerged yesterday that defenders Brendan Galloway and Tendayi Darikwa, were not fully vaccinated.
Warriors manager, Wellington Mpandare, said the move by the UK government was a welcome development, as it tries to create a level playing field, in the qualifiers.
“This is a welcome development because that’s exactly what we have been clamouring for,” said Mpandare.
“It’s unfortunate we are living in a difficult pandemic era but we have always insisted on a level playing field and protecting the dignity of these international matches.
“It was not only Zimbabwe, who were affected by the UK policy, and we are happy the UK Government has heeded the appeals from the football family.
“The unfortunate part is that the exemptions only apply to fully vaccinated players and only two of the UK-based players, we had called up for the match against Ghana, are fully vaccinated.
“We continue to encourage all our players, even those not called up now, to consider getting fully vaccinated.’’
The announcement by the UK Government was celebrated across the global football family.
Last month the Premier League and English Football League clubs refused to release players, for international duty, in red-listed countries.
A number of South American and African stars were not released for the September international break as they would have had to spend 10 days in isolation, in a government-mandated hotel, on their return to England.
But high-level talks involving FIFA and the UK government, to relax the quarantine rules for players, almost all of whom will be in close-knit bubbles during their national team tour of duty, have finally yielded the desired results.
The new exemptions will allow players, who are fully vaccinated, to continue training and playing in matches for their clubs, upon their return to England.
“We have worked closely with football authorities to achieve an outcome that balances the interests of both club and country while maintaining the highest levels of public health and safety,’’ a UK Government spokesman said.
“Our best defence against the virus is vaccination and these new measures will allow fully vaccinated players to fulfil their international duties in the safety, most practical way possible, while allowing them to train and play with their clubs as early as possible upon their return.”
The decision will mean Aston Villa will release Nakamba and his teammates — Emi Martinez, Marvelous Nakamba and Bertrand Traore.
The trio are expected to return for club duty ahead of the match against Wolves on October 16.
The Birmingham Mail reported yesterday that under the new rule, “players must immediately go from their international bubble to their club bubble, and stay in segregated accommodation – their homes – for 10 days, with training or playing a match permitted on a daily basis.
“Players returning from red-list zones cannot mix with the general public, but only those within their squad bubble.”
Villa manager, Dean Smith, confirmed Nakamba was fully vaccinated.
“Both our players, who will be affected by going into red zonesm are fully vaccinated as well which is a real positive for us.”
Liverpool manager, Jurgen Klopp, however, was still critical of the new arrangement.
“Ten days’ quarantine, allowed to play the games, to go work, not allowed to live at home, but don’t have to live in a hotel chosen by any authorities,’’ he told SkySports.
“Food has to be delivered in front of your room door, you’re not allowed any visitors.
“If that’s the solution I don’t know where it’s coming from. “In our case, we talk about the Brazilian players (Fabinho and Alisson), Kostas Tsimikas and Sadio Mane.
“It would mean they go for 10-12 days with their national teams and then go another 10 days away from their families in quarantine.
“That’s 22 days.
“And, then two weeks later, is the next international break. It doesn’t sound like a real solution. “Some countries are on the red list in the UK but not for France, Germany. Players are always in bubbles, here and on international duty, so I don’t know how that’s different to what it already was.”
The Liverpool boss said a real solution, which does not leave the players mentally drained, was needed.
“I don’t think it’s been properly thought through. It feels a bit like somebody opens the door in an important office in the government and says, ‘by the way, we still have to sort that issue with the footballers.
“They don’t like the situation with the hotel? Let them go in another hotel.’
“Come on boys, we’re taking people out of normal life for three weeks for no real reason. We take care for our players when they live here and their families. They don’t do anything else.
“They go home, come to training and go home.
“We put them in a hotel and deliver the food in front of their door? That’s just not right, that we move responsibility to the players.
“Do we want that, is that okay for you, can you do that? If you don’t want it, don’t go to your national team. That’s just not right.
“I don’t expect the government to be 100 percent in a Premier League situation and think about the need of specific players, but the Premier League has to fight for our players.”