Inside the five-star Afcon anarchy

HARARE - You might want to sit down for this.

As Zimbabwe’s preparations ahead of the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) in Gabon continue, there is still so much potential for devastating chaos.

It’s only a matter of time before there is an upset — with only a week to go to the Nations Cup campaign — a row over accommodation and financial issues is still raging on.

The impasse could change the entire Afcon picture overnight — literally.

So don’t get too comfortable with the Warriors’ perceived position of power after becoming the only team from southern Africa to qualify for Afcon.

Zimbabwe’s first match of the tournament is against Algeria next Sunday before facing Tunisia and Senegal in Group B.

Over the past week, there have been several scenarios that could wreak havoc on the team’s campaign, and cause a few headaches for Zifa.

Initially, the Warriors flatly refused to stay at the decrepit Zifa Village training facility, sledging it as substandard, and had to be urgently booked at a Harare hotel by Footballers Union of Zimbabwe.

The team have almost failed to train at the National Sports Stadium for because of a measly $60 fee had not been paid. They had to use a high school ground for their training session instead.

It is unclear why the fee was not paid, given mobile network provider, NetOne, had just unveiled a $250 000 sponsorship package.

On Friday night, matters came to a head at the five-star Rainbow Towers hotel amid a heated stand-off, with the Warriors disagreeing with Zifa and government over Afcon appearance fees and winning bonuses.

Critics have said if funds cannot be found, the Warriors should not even really play this Afcon tournament. They should cancel it and save the energy used to light the stadiums.

The games have sowed chaos but, as things shook and shook and shook out, the Warriors have wound up with either zero chance or only a slight chance of emerging victorious with disgruntled players.

As the summer breeze blew inside the Rainbow Towers’ foyer, it became abundantly clear there may not be an end to this bottomless pit after all.

Hotel guests and staff looked on, dumbstruck, as the players declined to leave their rooms to participate in a send-off dinner organised by Sports minister Makhosini Hlongwane.

Hlongwane had earlier on Thursday told the nation that acting President Emmerson Mnangagwa had sourced a “stout resource envelope….which should see the Afcon campaign get to its logical conclusion, hopefully without any glitches.”

The minister said the acting president assisted in facilitating the mobilisation of resources from various government departments.

To this end, Mnangagwa was expected to preside over Friday’s banquet, hosted by the Sports ministry, where he would personally unveil the package to the team ahead of their departure for Cameroon.

He told the nation that government had mobilised resources to lay out a $1 million package for the Warriors Afcon sojourn.

His remarks were greeted with screaming headlines as tabloids fell over each other to praise the Sports minister.

But neutrals were not convinced of government’s sincerity, especially at a time that Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa has openly admitted that treasury is broke and cannot pay its own workers.

Those fears seemed to have been confirmed by Friday night’s anarchy.

Anarchy reigned supreme, as the stand-off ensued between the Warriors and the mother body, Zifa, with the Warriors flatly refusing to attend the banquet in protest over unpaid camping allowances and unresolved Afcon match fees.

It later degenerated into total chaos as the Warriors, who had been scheduled to leave for Cameroon later that night en route to Gabon; literary threw the air tickets into the faces of Zifa and government.

Not even the impending presence of Mnangagwa, who was probably freshening up to make his way to officiate at the dinner, could move the Willard Katsande-captained side to abandon their strike.

The hotel staff reacted magnificently and minimised the effect on the hotel guests.

All the staff was very friendly and helpful, but the impasse naturally drew stunned reactions.

“Vakomana varamba (the boys have flatly refused),” remarked a hotel staffer.

He said he had seen many dramas but was yet to encounter such an episode.

“I knew the team was having problems but did not think it was as bad as this,” he added, before going about his business.

Footballers going on strike in Zimbabwe may be an astonishing development for fans who associate the likes of Khama Billiat and Katsande with Hollywood lifestyles and banker-type bonuses.

But the disputes which could prevent Warriors’ campaign kicking off in a week or halting, is an issue endangering the professional game far beyond Zimbabwe: the failure of too many clubs — usually, but not only — lower down the league ladders, to pay their players.

Laws governing contracts of employment in any industry — whether football or manufacturing — are important strands in the framework of society.

The headline issue here concerns the irresponsibility of Zifa in adequately providing for the players. Beyond that is a further, even more sinister, danger: unpaid players are vulnerable to underworld fixers corrupting the game on behalf of internet-empowered betting syndicates.

As Fifa has discovered belatedly, fixing is widespread.

This has corroded the credibility of domestic competition not only in Africa but in Belgium, Finland, and Germany, Greece and Turkey, to name but a handful of infected European countries.

As the chaos played out at the Rainbow Towers, Zifa president Philip Chiyangwa was holding an emergency meeting with the players, desperately trying to convince them to back down on their demands.

It is understood that apart from unpaid camping allowances, the players want a guaranteed $5 000 Afcon appearance fee per match.

Zifa appeared to have been prepared to part with anything between $500 to a $1 000 per player.

Hlongwane, who has in the past successfully mediated when all chips were down, also rushed up to try and resolve the stalemate.

But he too emerged with his tail firmly between his legs.

At a loss of words, he made his way out and headed to see the acting president to deliver the ghastly news that Mnangagwa risked officiating in an empty auditorium if he was to attend the banquet.

In the midst of the chaos, one avid Warriors supporter and seasoned sports administrator Tendai “T-Buns” Zhakata strangely threatened to summon the Chipangano militia to discipline the players for snubbing a dinner which was set to be presided by the acting president.

“Hamungajairire president (you cannot disobey the president),” he bellowed as the Warriors made their way for supper.

“Vapfana murikuda kurohwa imimi. Ndirikukuunzirai Chipangano (I am going to bring notorious Zanu PF thugs to straighten you out).”

His threats brought a deathly silence in the Rainbow Towers foyer, but players continued to go about their business unperturbed.

Amid Friday night’s anarchy, Afro-jazz musician Bob Nyabinde, who had been hired to provide entertainment for the night, continued belting out his hit songs in front of an empty gallery.

“It’s not nice when you perform under these circumstances,” the distraught veteran musician told the Daily News on Sunday.

“But the show has to go on. I feel pity for those who had come to support in earnest.”

A Zifa official who declined to be named commiserated with the mother body over the chaos.

“We have to be considerate of our economic situation,” the official said, apparently taking a jibe at players, before turning his guns at Zifa.

“The problem with our leadership is that they think more of themselves than the players. They thought they could bulldoze their way past these players. I have known these players for a long time. Once they want something, they are serious about it.”

Comments (4)

That's good,,I support the players 100%.ZANU people thinks they own everything. Its a shame for Zifa failing to pay the players. ZANU is rotten but they still don't feel shame jumping on everything yet they can't do anything. Moving dead idiots

Matsotsi - 8 January 2017

Chiyangwa Chiyangwa chiyangwa.Yu bring in yo G40 tricks to humiliate the Vp.Yu invite vp when yu know yo boys will riot.Yu and yo minister .These are tricks from g40.Chiyangwa ,if those boys dont perform ,yu will rot in jail.Hand in yo resignation now.skunk.

viola gwena - 8 January 2017

@Viola u are becoming more stupid each day . You are no longer boot licking Mnangagwa but asslicking njandini . players must be layer their dues as this has nothing to do with Gugurahundi Mnangagwa. Shame on u salukazi

Ndoda - 8 January 2017

mboko iononzi chivayo or chivharo iripi yaiti ine bag... THat wicknell is a stupid dumb ass ..... broke fat nigga ....mother sucker

ngwena - 9 January 2017

Post a comment

Readers are kindly requested to refrain from using abusive, vulgar, racist, tribalistic, sexist, discriminatory and hurtful language when posting their comments on the Daily News website.
Those who transgress this civilised etiquette will be barred from contributing to our online discussions.
- Editor

Your email address will not be shared.