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Tennis ace stuck in Egypt

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Zimbabwe Davis Cup tennis player Mlandeli Ndlela is among the 18 000 passengers stranded at Cairo Airport in Egypt in their vain attempt to escape the volatile protests in that country.

Ndlela was in Cairo as Zimbabwe’s sole representative in the International Tennis Federation’s (ITF) Futures tournament which was called off last Sunday. He had arrived in Cairo on Thursday.

Daniel Ndlela, the player’s father, said he was worried, as he had lost contact with his son.

“The family that I have been communicating with in Cairo e-mailed me saying they have lost contact with him (Mlandeli Ndlela). They are not sure if he has left Cairo and so I am at a loss for words on his situation. I don’t know where he is,” Ndlela said.

The mass protests started on January 25 in a bid to force out President Hosni Mubarak. According to reports from the north African country, Cairo’s international airport was a scene of chaos as thousands of foreigners sought to flee the unrest and countries around the world scrambled to send in planes to evacuate their citizens.

Reports said that there were more than 18 000 passengers stranded at Cairo International Airport as food supplies dwindled and airport staff were thin on the ground. Some tourists even reported being forced to pay bribes to policemen before being permitted to board the few planes which managed to take off.

Ndlela represented Zimbabwe in the Davis Cup competition in 2008.

The ITF Futures tournament had been expected to run from January 31 to February 6 but was cancelled owing to the political unrest in Egypt. The player’s father expressed concern about his 25-year-old son.

“I am worried about him because communication is bad in Cairo. Only landlines are working. Very few houses in Cairo have landlines. I have been trying to get to him since Thursday (last week), but only managed to talk to him yesterday (Tuesday) after strenuous efforts from my friends who live there who have a landline at home.

“Three buses took the players from the tournament village to Cairo International Airport where they were expected to board flights to their respective homes,” he said.

He added: “The other problem is that there is no food and water. I managed to communicate with him on Tuesday when he informed me that he was fine and had food.

“The lucky part is that he was moving with cash unlike in most cases where he used plastic money. Cards are not working in Egypt. However, my friends have assured me that if he does not get the flight home today, they will take him into their custody,” he said.

Tennis Zimbabwe vice-president Regis Bhunu said the only commucation from the ITF was that the players taking part in the Futures tournament, including Ndlela, had been taken to Cairo International Airport but it would take some time to secure flights.

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