THE Central Southern Africa hockey qualifier in Harare for the Africa Cup of Nations tournament has been postponed to the beginning of May due to Covid-19.
At the end of December, the African Hockey Federation (AHF) announced that the tournament would be held on 27-29 February, but due to the worsening Covid-19 situation in Zimbabwe, the tournament has been postponed by a bit more than two months, according to the president of the Namibia Hockey Union, Marc Nel.
“The Africa Hockey Federation informed me last night that the tournament has been postponed to the first week in May – it must take place within the first 10 days of May,” he said on Tuesday, adding that the new date will suit them better.
“It’s better for us all. In the past we’ve had problems in the first quarter of the year and not everyone is always available coming so soon after the holidays.
But we have been continuing training with our high performance squads and players who previously didn’t get the opportunity can now still do so, because there is more time,” he said.
Zimbabwe is currently under a Tier 4 lockdown which restricts movement between 6pm and 6am, and according to a News24 report, the second wave of infections has left health experts alarmed. Over the past month, deaths have risen by more than 100, while infections have spiked by more than 5 000.
Namibia is due to compete against Zimbabwe and South Africa at the tournament, which is a qualifier for the Africa Cup of Nations finals, which is now scheduled to take place at the end of the year.
The top two teams in Harare will join the other regional continental winners at the Afcon finals, which have now been shifted to October, according to the Africa Hockey Federation.
Äs the Tokyo Olympics will now take place during the period 23 July to 8 August, it has been decided that for this Afcon edition, the window will be shifted from the regular month of August to October 2021. Bidding to host the tournament has been launched to all national associations,” the AHF said.
The winners at the Afcon finals will qualify for the Women’s World Cup, which takes place in Spain and Holland in July 2022, and the Men’s World Cup, which takes place in India in January 2023.
The dates of other continental competitions this year, however, still remain the same as announced by the AHF on 30 December.
The u21 Junior Africa Cup will take place in Accra, Ghana from 22 to 28 March, while the Indoor Africa Cup for men and women will be held in Durban, South Africa from 15 to 18 April. The winners here will qualify for the Indoor World Cup which will now take place in Liege, Belgium in February next year.
Nel, meanwhile, said the start of the local league will be finalised next week.
“At this stage I can’t say when the league will start, because we will only finalise that at a meeting next week. We were previously thinking of starting with the field league this year to help prepare our teams for Harare, but now with the changes, we could start with the indoor league as in the past,” he said.