Sikhumbuzo Moyo in Bulawayo and Mukudzei Chingwere in Zvishavane
THE FC Platinum delegation comprising players, technical members and the media were on Monday morning scared to the death teeth when security manning Owando Aerodrome in Congo Brazzaville told them of the possibility of a Boko Haram attack.
Getting into the landing aerodrome, which is located about 460km from the capital Brazzaville, the travelling delegation found one uniformed but unarmed soldier who was friendly to the Zimbabweans who had just posted a 1-1 draw against host team AS Otoho in the Total Caf Champions League first round, first leg encounter the previous day.
The team had left their base without police escort, unlike when they arrived last Friday morning where they were escorted to their base.
Speaking through a translator, the soldier advised the Zimbabweans against taking pictures of a presidential lounge with his request adhered to, but the mood immediately changed when he said he now needed to be armed as there was a risk of the rebel group that has so far killed at least 27 000 people while in 2014 it kidnapped 276 schoolgirls in Nigeria. They will be coming from across the borders of Cameroon where they have caused irreparable damage.
He came back moments later fully armed.
There was fear and terror in the Zimbabwean camp, with some quickly getting into the mini-buses and staying put as they waited for the MA60 small aircraft to come from Maya Maya Airport in Brazzaville.
It was a relief when the small aircraft finally landed but the usual lackadaisical approach to putting the bags into the plane vanished when it was announced that the whole process had to be quick and the team has to be airborne in 15 minutes.
“This aerodrome is not a busy one and Boko Haram rebels who operate from nearby Cameroon are aware that any plane that lands here is a potential hostage situation since it will be a chartered flight whose occupants could be people of financial means,” said the security detail.
As luggage was being loaded into the plane, another soldier, armed to the bream, suddenly emerged from the heavy thicket. This one neither smiled nor showed any signs of being friendly and one could see that everyone now just wanted to be airborne and get away quickly from Owando.
The Congolese were expected in the country last night ahead of the second leg encounter at Mandava.
And despite the bad treatment they endured at the hands of Congolese side AS Otoho last week, FC Platinum have refused the temptation to retaliate when their opponents come to Zimbabwe for the first round, second leg tie scheduled for Mandava tomorrow.
The winner of the two legged encounter book a place in the group stages of Africa’s premier club competition and FC Platinum are hot favourites to progress after grinding a 1-1 draw in the hostile jungle.
The platinum miners complained about the way the match was handled as well as the hostile reception they endured, saying had it not been for a cocktail ill-treatment’s they could have won the first leg.
The Congolese side is expected in the country today following the arrival of their advance team on Monday and FC Platinum maintained that in as much as they want to progress to the next round, they cannot afford to spurn the opportunity of marketing Zimbabwe as a safe tourist destination.
FC Platinum club president George Mawere told The Herald that his club is modern and will never invoke dirty tactics used by some in the African Safari to win matches. “What we endured in Congo is archaic and that is not how you treat visitors when they come to your country, we are a modern club and we will never ill-treat opponents.
“They should brace themselves for a modern way of receiving and treating opponents when they visit their countries, we will give them the platinum ambience,” he continued.
“Zimbabwe is one of the best tourist destinations in the world and we cannot afford to let go the chance of marketing destination Zimbabwe.
Meanwhile, the miners started preparations for the reverse fixture when they conducted their first training session in Zvishavane on Wednesday afternoon.
CAF has assigned Djibouti officials to take charge of the match, Souleiman Djama will be the referee assisted by compatriots Salh Mohamed, Rachid Bouraleh and Mohamed Guedi as second, third and fourth official respectively. Malawian official James Mwenda will be the match commissioner.
Source: The Herald