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AFCON kicks off in Cameroon amid COVID-19 challenges

By Otiato Opali in Nairobi, Kenya | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2022-01-10 19:55

The much awaited 33rd edition of the African Cup of Nations or AFCON tournament kicked off on Sunday with a win for hosts Cameroon as they came back from behind to prevail 2-1 over Burkina Faso in the opening match.

More than 40,000 fans led by Cameroon's President Paul Biya attended the opening ceremony marked by fireworks, traditional costumes and music to showcase Cameroon's cultural diversity and hospitality.

However, cases of players testing positive for COVID-19 have resulted in the Confederation of African Football issuing guiding rules to provide safety for participants in the event while avoiding interruptions to matches.

On Saturday, the Senegal Football Federation announced that goalkeeper Edouard Mendy, captain Kalidou Koulibaly and striker Famara Diedhiou had returned positive results in mandatory testing for the Senegal squad 48 hours ahead of their opening game against Zimbabwe.

Among other affected teams in Cameroon, according to the Football Association of Malawi, at least nine members of the Malawi national team have tested positive. The group which includes six players and three officials has been isolated and will miss Monday's match against Guinea.

According to guidelines released by the Confederation of African Football on Saturday, a team only needs 11 available players to fulfill a fixture regardless of whether that number includes a goalkeeper.

"If the result of the COVID-19 PCR test of any player is positive, such player will not be authorized to go to the stadium or participate in the applicable match. A team will be required to play a match if they have a minimum of 11 players available who have tested negative," the confederation said in a statement.

"In the event of the absence of a goalkeeper, another player from the team must replace the goalkeeper, provided the total number of available players is at least eleven. A team that does not have a minimum of 11 players available will be considered to have lost the match 0-2."

The 24-nation tournament runs from Sunday to February 6.

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