BY HENRY MHARA
The Warriors were yesterday barred from accessing the National Sports Stadium by some government officials where they intended to hold their training session ahead of their crucial Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Congo Brazzaville on Sunday, in an unprecedented and embarrassing move that dampened the mood in the camp.
The team was scheduled to play a preparatory match against Premiership side Yadah FC at the match venue, but were locked out by officials from the Department of Public Works, who administer the stadium.
Warriors team manager Wellington Mupandare confirmed the incident claiming that certain forces were trying to sabotage the team in their quest to qualify for the finals set for Egypt in June.
The team eventually moved to the Yadah Village for their training match.
Since they started training on Tuesday, the Warriors have not used the match venue and they intended to make use of it yesterday, but their plan was scuppered by officials who made a number of unreasonable demands.
“This is the worst treatment that I have seen the team receiving. To imagine that we are barred from accessing our own stadium, a facility that is owned by the government, is gutting. I have never seen this anywhere in the world where a national team is denied to have a feel of their own stadium, it’s shocking,” Mupandare said. “When we went to the Democratic Republic of Congo and Congo Brazzaville we were given free access to the match venue, but in our own country we can’t train in the match venue. We are barred from using our own stadium by the people who should be supporting us, and you begin to wonder if this is not sabotage.”
Mupandare said the government officials demanded a reconciliation of the tickets that have been sold so far for the match before they could allow the team to train.
“The most disappointing thing is that yesterday we went to an all-stakeholders meeting were all the logistics for the match were discussed. All the relevant authorities were represented and they never raised the ticket issue. And now they are raising it, which is quite disturbing.
“And what is most annoying is that the players don’t have anything to do with the tickets and the levies that the ministry will get. They will eventually get the money after the match anyway, but how is the team going to be compensated for the lost time?” Mupandare quizzed.
Interestingly, President Emmerson Mnangagwa has invited the squad for a pre-match dinner at State House today.
“The President is getting out of his way to make the team comfortable by hosting the squad. But someone down there is trying to sabotage the team. And he is not sabotaging the team only, but the President as well. We have had sponsors who are supporting us. Prophet (Walter) Magaya has stood with us throughout, providing accommodation and food at his hotel and we have just received suits from 4May, and when everyone is trying to make the team succeed, it’s disturbing that the people who should be supporting us are the ones who are throwing spanners (into the works).”
He said yesterday’s events also gives a bad impression to the new players in the team, especially those from Europe.
“Imagine what is going through their minds right now when they are denied entry to their stadium. We are making efforts to negotiate with more players dotted around the globe so that they can come and play for the national team. And when they hear this, do you think they will agree? The players and everyone in the team is disappointed.”