ZIMBABWEAN football plunged into one of its worst crisis yesterday following a row over allowances between the Warriors and Zifa ahead of Saturday’s Group L 2017 African Cup of Nations qualifier against the Flames of Malawi at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre that led to the cancellation of yesterday’s trip.
BY TAWANDA TAFIRENYIKA/MICHAEL MADYIRA
The impasse culminated in the Warriors eventually missing their scheduled flight and they are now expected to endure a punishing 600km road trip to Blantyre this morning. They are scheduled to arrive 24 hours before kick-off, having been initially expected to arrive in Blantyre last night.
Alternatively, they could fly to South Africa and connect from there to Malawi.
Failure to fulfil the fixture, Zimbabwe run the risk of a heavy fine from the Confederation of African Football and a possible ban from the tournament.
A gloomy atmosphere clouded the Warriors camp at a Harare hotel as players could be seen wandering aimlessly looking dejected and downcast, while some remained seated pensively in the bus.
After having participated in the morning training session at Rufaro Stadium, the Warriors later refused to board a bus to the airport where they were supposed to catch a 4:10pm flight to Malawi, demanding an advance payment of $500 each in appearance fees.
They had initially demanded $1 000 before backing down to $500.
Apart from appearance fees, the Warriors, led by captain Willard Katsande, claimed local and foreign daily allowances which they had pegged between $30 and $60 per day, respectively.
Like a typical frustrated chief executive, Zifa CEO Jonathan Mashingaidze paced up and down with his mobile phone ringing endlessly as he battled to resolve the stand-off.
The Zifa boss frantically appealed to the players that they would be paid their dues upon return from Malawi, with the players insisting on payment before departure.
Even concerted efforts by Zifa vice-president Omega Sibanda to convince the players to travel yesterday drew blanks.
Katsande could be seen engaging in a series of discussions with coach Kalisto Pasuwa before being joined by Mashingaidze.
“By hook or crook, we are going to travel to Malawi, but this means we will now have to travel by road,” Mashingaidze said.
“We are getting into a meeting now to discuss plan B with the technical team as well as the president (Cuthbert Dube).
“In the past, we have been paying $100 per match and for this one, they said they want $1 000 and we managed to negotiate for $500. We told them that we can pay them after the match, but they are saying they want the money before they leave.”
However, Mashingaidze managed to convince the players to meet with Dube in a bid to resolve the impasse.
After the meeting which ended around 8pm, Zifa spokesman Xolisani Gwesela said: “The president has made a guarantee that he will pay all the outstanding amounts by Monday. Because of logistical challenges that could not happen now (last night).
“The players are now leaving by road early tomorrow morning (this morning). They will be accommodated at Daisy Lodge for the night.”
He added: “Zifa has no capacity to fund the national teams. We appreciate the help that we got from government in terms of accommodation and the $6 000 that they also added for air tickets. But we also appeal to government to chip in in terms of player allowances.
“The funding of these national teams is not the responsibility of Zifa alone, it is the nation’s collective responsibility. We are over 13 million in this country and we should unite for the success of the beautiful game.”
It is understood that the total bill stands at $42 000 which Dube agreed to pay by Monday.
The gruelling road trip to Blantyre now means the already ill-prepared Warriors will miss an entire day of training after having just been involved in only three training sessions.
They started training on Wednesday after another impasse between Zifa and Pasuwa.
The shambolic preparations could turn out to be Pasuwa’s nightmare as fatigue is likely to take its toll on the players.