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Rufaro or BF for Platinum

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FC Platinum will play El Merreikh of Sudan in the first round, first leg of the Caf Champions League football match at Rufaro or Barbourfields Stadium on Saturday after losing the battle to host the match at Mandava Stadium in Zvishavane.

El Merreikh are expected to arrive in Harare today.
Platinum, coached by Rahman Gumbo, had already paid for a chartered flight to take the visitors from Harare to Masvingo where they were expected to set up base ahead of the match, but developments late yesterday and a directive from the Confederation of African Football (Caf) threw them in a quandary.

Caf directed last week, and re-affirmed their decision yesterday to use another venue instead of Mandava, due to lack of accommodation in the Midlands town.

Phil Muvengwa, the Platinum secretary, who confirmed the sad news, met with Zifa chief executive officer Jonathan Mashingaidze to discuss finer details of the engagement after losing the battle.

“We are definitely not playing at Mandava Stadium. We are still juggling between Bulawayo and Harare as some consultations are still going on,”
Muvengwa said, looking ahead to the tie. “We are not going to be affected by playing in either Harare or Bulawayo, in fact it has motivated us to do better. We are angry and we will vent our anger on them.”

The final decision is due to be known today, although Caf had given yesterday’s deadline. But due to an appeal made by Zifa yesterday, that decision will now be communicated to Caf this morning.

This is the second time that Merreikh, based in Omdurman, has gotten the better of Zimbabwean sides after playing Highlanders at Gwanzura Stadium in the Confederation Cup in 2008 after the former Bulawayo giants had bungled travel arrangements.

Hwange have also been caught in the politics of the game after their opponents on Sunday in the Confederation Cup Al Amal Atbara also decided to fly into Harare instead of taking advice to travel to Victoria Falls from Johannesburg.

There are no domestic flights in the country due to the demise of Air Zimbabwe, meaning Hwange will have to charter a flight, or worse let the Sudanese travel by road to Matabeleland North and face stiff Caf sanctions.

The complaint by Caf arose after Platinum hosted Green Mamba of Swaziland in the second leg of the preliminary round at Mandava after which the match commissioner wrote the damning match report to Caf.

On Sunday, Caf reconfirmed their decision through a letter from the secretary-general Hicham El Amrani: “We hereby repeat that since the distance from the venue Masvingo, where the visiting team will be accommodated, to Mandava Stadium is 95km which makes it very hard for the match officials and visiting team to test the playground.

“Hence we would like to reconfirm the Caf decisions on 7 and 11 March 2012 that the match shall not be held at Mandava Stadium. Consequently you are kindly requested to change the venue of Mandava and play your future matches at another venue that has the necessary requirements to host Caf matches and confirm to us the alternative within the next 24 hours.”

In his final appeal against the directive, Mashingaidze had written: “We have noted the issue of distance of 95km which you raised in respect of the distance between Masvingo and Zvishavane. The association has made all the relevant preparations in terms of El Merreikh’s arrival, connection to Masvingo and their training programme.

“The association and FC Platinum has secured an aircraft for use by the club El Merreikh and match officials from Masvingo and back and to that end, both match officials’ and the club will have easy access to the practice and match venue.

“We have already spent money on the hiring of aircraft and accommodation for the club and match officials. We therefore await your response to our final appeal to have the match in question played at Mandava Stadium which meets Caf and Fifa standards.”

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