SABLES team manager Dereck Chiwara believes the hostile reception they received from the Tunisia Rugby Federation has given them the extra motivation they needed for their crucial Rugby Africa Gold Cup against the hosts in Beja on Saturday.
BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
The senior national rugby team endured a nightmarish trip to Tunisia after being delayed for close to seven hours after arrival at the Tunis Carthage International Airport over visa issues before being forced to sleep on the streets in protest after booked into dingy hotel.
Pictures of the Sables players and officials sleeping on the pavements in the streets of capital Tunis drew global outrage, forcing Rugby Africa and Tunisia Rugby officials to apologise.
With the players now settled at another hotel, Chiwara told NewsDay Sport that the horrendous treatment they endured had only served to spur them on to a good performance on Saturday.
“Everything we went through from the delay at the airport to sleeping outside the hotel after being offered substandard accommodation has only but united the team even more,” the former Harare Sports Club eighth man said.
“The players are motivated and have now shifted their focus on the match and we are leaving no stone unturned to come up with a positive result which would be very important for our hopes of qualifying for the World Cup.”
But barely 24 hours after issuing a joint apology with Rugby Africa for its treatment of the Sables team, the Tunisia Rugby Federation yesterday made a U-turn yesterday by shifting the blame on the Zimbabwe delegation.
The Tunisians alleged that the Zimbabwean delegation was to blame for the delay at the airport, accusing Chiwara of refusing to pay the required visa fees on arrival in Tunis.
“….the team manager refused to pay the entry visa fees on Tunisian territories (60 dinars per person) on the pretext that he did not have the amount requested knowing that the Tunisian federation had previously notified Rugby Africa by letter dated 08/06/2018, informing them of all these procedures that go beyond the federation’s prerogatives and that Rugby Africa had notified the Zimbabwean federation of visa fees,” reads the statement.
“Nevertheless, the team manager persisted in not paying these fees, which caused a long wait for the members of the delegation and a delay of more than four hours. It was necessary to contact the director of Rugby Africa who spoke by telephone with the team manager of Zimbabwe who subsequently agreed to pay the invoice of the visa fees. It is important to note that these visa procedures are common between several African countries.”
The Tunisian federation also tried to justify its decision to book the Sables in a substandard hotel, whose appalling condition has been widely condemned around the world after pictures of the filthy and rundown hotel rooms and bathrooms were posted on social media.
“Around 11pm, the Zimbabwean team manager expressed reservations about the state of the bathroom in one of the rooms, the lack of a pool and the low internet speed. So, he started talking about leaving the hotel on the pretext that it is not decent.”
“The quick intervention of the president and three members of the organising committee was not enough to calm him down and convince him to spend the rest of the night at the hotel, ensuring that he would find solutions the next morning with the possibility to change hotels. Alas, he asked all the members of the delegation to take out their luggage, leave the hotel and spend the night outside on the ground. Unfortunately, local officials tried to negotiate with the head of delegation but without success.
“At 6:30 in the morning; and after the efforts and interventions of the organising committee and members of the Tunisian federation, the Zimbabwe team was transferred to the Alrawabi Hotel in Nefza, where they expressed their satisfaction with an apology to the president of the organising commission.”
While expressing “its deep regret for all that had happened” the Tunisian Rugby Federation surprisingly accused the Sables of “anti-sports and anti-ethical actions” which it said did not reflect the strong ties of friendship between the two countries.”