Warriors, Zifa in impasse

SPORTS minister Makhosini Hlongwane spilled the beans on the boycott threats by the Warriors during their failed 2017 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) campaign in Gabon.

During last week’s question and answer session in Parliament, the Zanu PF Mberengwa East legislator revealed the details while responding to a question by Buhera South MP Joseph Chinotimba on the hefty allowances paid to the Warriors.

Government availed $1 million for the senior men’s national team to cater for their welfare following a request by the Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa).

NetOne also chipped in with a sponsorship package of $250 000.

The Warriors drew 2-2 against Algeria in their tournament opener with goals from Kuda Mahachi and Nyasha Mushekwi (penalty) while the Desert Foxes forward Riyad Mahrez scored a brace.

The locals, however, reportedly threatened to boycott their second match against Senegal if they had not been paid for their draw bonuses.

The players demanded to be paid $3 000 each for the draw since their winning bonuses were pegged at $6 000.
In a hastily-signed agreement the players had agreed with Zifa on the eve of their departure for the tournament in Gabon, the issue of bonuses after a draw was left out.

In the end, Zifa had to make a further payment to the players after they had refused to train ahead of their second match against the Lions of Teranga.

After receiving their payments, the players went on to train and eventually lost the match 2-0 to Senegal.
Zimbabwe crashed out of the tournament following a humiliating 4-2 defeat to Tunisia in their final group match in which the Warriors conceded all four goals in the first half.

Chinotimba asked the minister whether the Warriors would pay back the money they were paid in advance for their Afcon campaign given that their romance in Libreville lasted for just three matches.

“The money paid to the Warriors was for the three matches that they played in the group stages which comprise appearance fees and bonuses,” Hlongwane responded.

“And even though that arrangement (to pay them for the draw against Algeria) was outside the agreed contract, they were paid for the draw against Algeria because the players were saying they were not going to fulfil their fixture against Senegal.”

Hlongwane said government had to intervene because of the discord and mistrust that exists between the Warriors and the mother body Zifa.

“We did so in order to encourage them to proceed with the tournament given the importance of soccer and how much the people love the game in the country so there’s no change that is supposed to be returned.
“We agreed to have them paid before the matches so that we would do away with the issue of mistrust between Zifa and the players.”

Earlier, team captain Willard Katsande had played down the issue while in Gabon.
“We never said we are not going to train, but it was recovery day because we played on Sunday night and last night the guys who were on the bench played a friendly match to keep the fitness levels high and then the coach decided to give us the whole day off and train at night,” Katsande told the local media in Gabon. —Austin Karonga

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