TP Mazembe coach Deigo Garzito described his 18-hour stay in Zimbabwe as “beautiful” but that was before his team spent more than two hours labouring to check into a local hotel yesterday.
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) side is in the country for an Orange African Champions League mini-league match against Dynamos at the National Sports Stadium on Sunday.
What started as a “beautiful” day for Garzito turned into a nightmare after the DRC delegation was barred from checking into a hotel because the Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) owed that hotel money.
Sources said the football governing body owed the hotel a bill accrued after the Zimbabwe senior men’s team camped at the facility before their match against the Seychelles in the Africa Nations Championships last month.
The hotel resisted moves by Zifa to book in TP Mazembe who had spent Wednesday night at a lodge in Glen Lorne. The DRC contingent, comprising 28 members—was booked into the lodge after initial efforts to get accomodation at the hotel hit a brick wall owing to Zifa’s debt believed to be around $7 000.
The visiting team’s woes were not helped either by a financially struggling Dynamos who were yesterday bailed out by Twalumba Holdings.
Following Twalumba’s intervention, Mazembe players were allowed into the hotel after over two hours of waiting on the team bus.
Mazembe players and officials cut forlorn faces as they disembarked from the bus. A member of the delegation who refused to be identified said: “This is not fair at all. We were made to sit on the bus for over two hours while these people negotiated. They should have done that a long time ago.
“This is the unfortunate side of African soccer where people are harassed or abused before matches,” said the angry official.
Zifa chief executive officer Henrietta Rushwaya said they encountered problems after Mazembe demanded to be checked into a hotel on the outskirts of the city.
She said: “They wanted to be booked into a hotel of their choice but we couldn’t do that. We have special relationships with hotels who offer us good rates. The confusion was caused by Mazembe who did not want the hotel we were offering them.”
Twalumba Holdings, who also sponsor police side Black Mambas, are believed to have coughed up to $35 000 for both Dynamos and TP Mazembe’s accommodation and camping costs.
Dynamos secretary Oliver Manyau said: “The sponsorship didn’t come as a result of this crisis. We have been negotiating with Twalumba for a long time and we are extremely grateful that they have come on board.
“I also want to thank Cimas who will also be offering medical support for free for both teams. “We hope other service providers will emulate what others have done.”
Before Twalumba doused the flames, wealthy TP Mazembe owner Moise Katumbi had threatened to pay $12 000 for the upkeep of his team in Harare.
Under the Confederation of African Football (Caf) regulations, host nations pay for the welfare of visiting teams.