HARARE - As the Zimbabwe national senior soccer team’s preparations for the Gabon Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals looked wobbly, government has chipped in with a timely boost for the team’s campaign in the west African country.
This comes as the Warriors’ journey to the continental showpiece had been marked by endless tiffs and problems surrounding the camping arrangements, and allowances between the players and the Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa).
And as Philip Chiyangwa’s executive was groping for solutions to this unending conundrum, it is understood that Sports minister Makhosini Hlongwane came up with a rescue package — thought to be in the region of $800 000 — after the former had approached the Mberengwa East legislator for assistance.
Without getting much into the nitty-gritties of the deal, which will be unveiled in the capital tomorrow, the former broadcaster, however, confirmed the Harare administration’s intervention.
“We responded to Zifa’s appeal... by approaching the government through acting president Emmerson Mnangagwa, who agreed in principle that a considerable resource envelope will be channeled towards Warriors’ Afcon campaign,” Hlongwane told the Daily News by telephone.
The Justice minister, who is expected to preside over tomorrow’s function to be hosted by the Sports ministry, will personally unveil the package to the team ahead of their departure for Cameroon at the weekend for a friendly match.
Zifa, which is currently sitting on a $7 million debt, had to be bailed out for accommodation by the Footballers Union of Zimbabwe (Fuz) after players had boycotted the beleaguered association’s offer for them to camp at the sub-standard Zifa Village.
The association also reportedly failed to raise $60 to book the National Sports Stadium for the team’s training session while star midfielder Marvelous Nakamba had to use personal resources to buy lunch for his teammates.
The team is scheduled to leave for Yaounde, Cameroon, on Saturday where they will play the Indomitable Lions in their final friendly match, before heading to Franceville, Gabon in time for their tournament opener against Algeria on January 15.
It is the norm usually in most countries that the government gives grants to different sporting associations. Just this week, defending champions Ivory Coast were given extra financial support with the Ivorian government approving a £5,1m budget for the team’s campaign in Gabon.
It is an increase of £507 000 from the last finals in Equatorial Guinea two years ago.
The two-time champions opened a training camp in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, on Monday where they will face Sweden in a friendly on January 8 and will complete their warm-up with a game against Uganda, another Nations Cup-bound side, three days later.
Meanwhile, Warriors striker Cuthbert Malajila said the team remains focussed on the task ahead.
“So far so good, the players are working hard and raring to go. We are training twice a day which is good and we can’t wait for the tournament to start. As a team we have believed since day one during the qualifying stages. We played games and won and I think we only lost once and we are hoping to build on that at this tournament,” Malajila told the Daily News yesterday.
“We are aware of the challenges that we are facing. Although we are the underdogs, we are not going there to add numbers. We are actually an ambitious underdog and we are going there to give a real fight. We are an exciting group and we want to do our country proud.”
The former Dynamos forward said their first match against Algeria on January 15 will be key as it will determine how they will fare in the rest of the tournament.
“I think we need to take it one game at a time but our match against Algeria is going to set the tone for us,” added Malajila.
“I think it’s one game that we need to win at all costs so that it makes life easier for us.”