The Mighty Warriors are threatening to abort their scheduled trip to Ivory Coast for the 2016 Rio Olympic qualifier, a development that could plunge troubled Zifa and local football further into the abyss.
BY HENRY MHARA
The Warriors are already fretting at the threat of losing their place in the 2018 Fifa World Cup qualifiers over a debt owed to former Brazilian-born coach Valinhos.
The women’s national team has already shown that they are serious about their threats after they boycotted a scheduled morning training session yesterday and vowed to continue with the industrial action until they are paid outstanding winning bonuses and allowances.
The players were last night locked in a meeting with Zifa president Cuthbert Dube and Women’s Football board member (competitions) Cecilia Gambe, who were trying to save the situation.
The Rosemary Mugadza-coached side is set to fly out of the country for Abidjan tomorrow, but the trip now hangs in balance after the players refused to train until their issue has been solved.
The players arrived at Rufaro Stadium, their training venue at around 9am, and disembarked from their team bus, but instead of proceeding to the playing field where the technical team had laid the cones in preparation for the start of the session, they proceeded to the VIP enclosure where they staged a sit-in until they left at around 1230hrs without kicking a ball.
The players, according to a reliable source, were protesting over unpaid allowances dating back to last year’s African Women Championship (AWC) first round qualifier against Botswana in March.
They initially staged a training boycott on the eve of travelling to Zambia for the AWC second round in June last year over allowances and poor camping conditions, but were persuaded to travel after each player was given $100 by Zifa. The team lost to Zambia to crash out of the qualifiers and their issue was never solved.
The source added that the players were also not paid for their win over Zambia in the previous round for the Rio Olympic qualifiers last month, save for $100 which each player was given after they had staged yet another mini protest.
On return from Lusaka, the players, the source added, were not given bus fare to return to their bases, leaving many stranded at the Zifa Village.
A player yesterday confirmed they are owed almost a $1 000 each for the two matches.
“These players have worked so hard for the country, playing under very difficult conditions, but still excel. The worrying thing is that they are not given appreciation, the same gratitude that their male counterparts are always accorded,” the source said.
“They continue to camp at the Zifa Village, a place that even the Young Warriors have shunned. They leave under poor conditions, but they have said they would continue to represent the country, which they have done with so much dignity. But they are also human beings and there is so much they can take.
“They are owed allowances from the match against Botswana. Each player was supposed to get $580 in winning bonuses and appearance fees. They were supposed to get $425 each against Zambia, but only got $100.”
“But the worst came after they returned from Zambia. They were not given bus fare to return to their homes and some stayed at the Zifa Village before they were rescued by a well-wisher. And in all that, no one from Zifa came to address them,” the source added.
Another source added that the players decided to boycott training after Zifa failed to fulfil its promise of settling the debt by Tuesday.
“The players were told would receive all their money on Tuesday, hence they were training since Saturday. They were told by madam chair Elizabeth Langa (Women’s Football interim chairperson) that they would get their money on Tuesday. That money didn’t come and that’s why they have resorted to this. They have actually agreed that they would not travel to Ivory Coast if they are not given the money.”
No comment could be obtained from Zifa with the association’s CEO Jonathan Mashingaidze and spokesperson Xolisani Gwesela not answering their phones. The team is set to play the World Cup finalists on Sunday before the reverse fixture two weeks later.
The aggregate winner will face the winner between Cameroon and Ghana in the final qualifying round with the ultimate winner going through to next year’s Olympics in Rio.