TROUBLED Bloemfontein Celtic, still reeling from a series of recent off-field issues, has lurched into a mini-crisis amid their struggle to regain a couple of injured international players who travelled to their countries prior to the coronavirus lockdown.
The latest setback follows the closure of borders between South Africa and neighbouring countries, as part of restrictions against the raging virus.
As a result of the partial shutdown at ports of entry, Celtic have been unable to have their Zimbabwean full-back, Ronald Pfumbidzai, who is still holed up back home in the capital Harare, having travelled before South Africa announced the closure of its borders in March.
Sources at the Free State-based Absa Premiership side disclosed Phunya Sele Sele also had a torrid time having Lesotho international striker, Sera Matebang, return after he also travelled to his homeland during the crisis posed by the global pandemic.
It could have been worse had the other international signing, Congolese attacking midfielder, Harris Tchilimbou, gone to his home country during the Covid-19 enforced break that has culminated in the league being suspended for the past four months.
While the resumption of training ahead of a possible restart of the season has come as a relief to teams, it has presented a poser for Celtic.
A source at the team said Pfumbidzai had been “stuck” in Zimbabwe, a development that was a dampener to the resumption of training under new head coach, John Maduka.
Celtic spokesman Sello Nduna confirmed in an interview the first-choice left-back was not back at the club.
“The player (Pfumbidzai) is still in Zimbabwe as there are currently no flights during the lockdown,” Nduna said.
He highlighted this was an issue beyond the club’s control.
“It is difficult, therefore to say when the player will be back,” Nduna said.
Pfumbidzai was having another consistent season until a groin strain restricted him to 12 matches, his last coming in the 5-3 defeat away to log leaders Kaizer Chiefs in December.
He has since recovered.
Nduna meanwhile confirmed Matebang was back in the country but was, in line with protocol, on quarantine, and had not linked up with the rest of the players at training.
“He has been here (in South Africa) for days and has to quarantine,” the Celtic publicist said.
The Likuena international has also been laid off since 1 December after coming on a 71st-minute substitute for captain Ndumiso Mabena in a 4-2 win over Black Leopards.
He had a satisfactory season with four goals in 12 matches overall.
He is one of eight Premiership players on that goal tally, one of them this teammate Menzi Masuku.
South Africa has imposed one of the longest lockdowns to curb the worst outbreak of Covid-19 on the continent.
Before the crisis, ninth-placed Celtic had other issues to deal with, characterised by ownership uncertainties and recurrent reports of non-payment of salaries.
Head coach Lehlohonolo Seema quit his coaching position earlier this month to join another besieged side, Chippa United in the Nelson Mandela Bay, Eastern Cape. – CAJ NEWS