We feel very safe: Pagels

ALEXANDRIA - Zimbabwe's arrival in Egypt for a six-day stay has generated a fair amount of media interest due to the unsettled political conditions in the North African country, but their German coach Klaus-Dieter Pagels says the team feels very safe.

The Warriors arrived here in batches on Thursday afternoon and Friday morning with little evidence of the unrest that hit the country in recent times.

Concerned about the team’s safety, the Zimbabwean Football Association (Zifa) had written to the Confederation of African Football (Caf) asking for the match to be moved to a neutral country, a request which was turned down.

The team’s arrival at Cairo International Airport, three-hour drive to the coastal city of Alexandria and stay at the five-star Radisson Hotel have all been incident-free and peaceful for the players and the rest of the Zimbabwean touring party.

“You are here, you can see for yourself,” Pagels told traveling journalists at an adjacent training ground owned by the hotel, whose well-groomed pitch makes a mockery of Zimbabwe’s best sports facilities.

Added Pagels: “Maybe most of the international media always tell bad things about Africa. As you can see we are free; nothing at all. All of us in this delegation are free. Are you not?”

Coming to Egypt, Pagels said he warned the players not to read too much into the situation obtaining in Egypt.

“We do not think about these things. I wouldn’t allow it to get into my players’ heads. We came to play football.”

Pagels, who has embarked on a drastic shake-up exercise in which he has put faith in a new generation of Zimbabwean footballers, will be taking charge of the Warriors in his first competitive match since a 2-1 friendly win over Botswana at home in February.

“The team is looking good, as you can see, they have had to learn fast.”

Pagels has been criticised by a number of fans, who felt he should have included a number of older players in his squad but the German has received backing from Zifa president Cuthbert Dube for his unwavering stance.

Speaking at the Warriors’ send-off ceremony before leaving Harare last week, the Zifa boss said the entire country must rally behind the new-look team Pagels has assembled. - Enock Muchinjo in Egypt

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