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Senong speaks on AFCON preps

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Moorosi Tsiane

LIKUENA gaffer Thabo Senong says his team has found it challenging to train under the Covid-19 regulations in preparing for the 2022 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifiers.

Unlike in past preparations where their task was limited to football only, Senong’s side must strictly adhere to Covid-19 regulations and conduct regular tests and screenings.

Likuena are in their third week of preparations for the back to back clashes against Benin between 9 and 17 November.

Likuena will early next year host Sierra Leone before travelling to Nigeria in the last match of Group L.

The next edition of the tournament was initially penned in for January 2021 in Cameroon but has now been moved to January 2022.

After the government allowed football activities to resume last month, Senong and his charges immediately started preparing for the qualifiers. He however, said it has been challenging to prepare under the Covid-19 restrictions.

Soccer activities were permitted to resume on condition that participants are screened regularly, tested when they are showing symptoms and sanitise regularly.

“We have been focusing mostly on the players’ physicality considering that they have not been active in the last seven months,” Senong said.

“It has been challenging because we have a new normal but the players are getting used to it. We must adhere to strict regulations to avoid the spread of Covid-19. I however, think the training that we got before starting the preparations helped us. We also have a compliance officer who is ensuring that everything is done accordingly.”

Senong is happy that his charges have exhibited a positive attitude towards the preparations.

He has all 26 home-based players in camp as all foreign-based players (Bokang Sello, Nkoto Masoabi, Tumelo Khutlang, Tshwarelo Bereng and Motebang Sera) are still with their teams in South Africa.

“The players have shown a great desire to play; probably because they have not been playing for too long. The long layoff has indeed affected them but we still have time to work on that.”

Commenting on why they were inactive during the international break last weekend, Senong said they were not yet ready.

“We started preparing late and the players were not ready for friendlies otherwise would have risked them suffering injuries. We are still hopeful that we will play some friendlies before playing Benin.”

The side is expecting to play at least two friendlies starting end of this month.

The former Amajita coach says they have also boosted their technical team by adding another physical trainer; Ntsie Mapetla, who will be working with Liteboho Mahase.

“We have brought in a biochemist who will be helping the players with injury rehabilitation and prevention. So, Liteboho will be focusing mostly on the physical training.”

Senong is happy that the league is yet to start and this is giving him ample time with all the players.

“It would have been nice to play with players who have been playing competitive football but then now that the league is inactive, we are able to be with the players for a longer period. We just need to condition them and ensure that they are fit enough. We have five players in South Africa who are with their teams and we are banking more on them because their league is about to start, so they will be fit for duty.

“We are trying to focus on preparing our team and not look at what other teams are doing. Benin played last weekend and won 2-0 against Gabon and we know that on paper they stand a good chance but in football anything can happen,” Senong said.

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