Robson Sharuko in CAIRO, Egypt
ZiMBABWE’S participation at the 2019 AFCON finals was hanging in the balance last night after a damaging stalemate between the Warriors and ZIFA over payments which the players are demanding.
After a number of meetings between the two parties which dragged into the night, ZIFA advised the players they were contemplating the possibility of withdrawing the team from the tournament.
The players were called in to be briefed about the decision to withdraw the team after they had threatened not to resume training tonight unless they were paid the remaining US$12 500 each by today.
In return, the Warriors said they were agreeable to being sent home as early as today, without playing their final game against DRC on Sunday.
They asked ZIFA leaders to sort out their travel arrangements as early as possible.
The Warriors had told the ZIFA officials, who promised them US$5 500 would be paid into their accounts today, that they would not train this evening until their full outstanding amount reflected in their banks.
That money included the US$2 500 ZIFA said they had secured for each of the players, and the US$3 000 for each of the Warriors, which was promised by the fundraising committee.
That would have left the Warriors needing US$5 000 appearance fees, and US$3 000 bonuses for the draw against Uganda ahead of the match against the DRC.
However, things deteriorated sharply during the night and the Warriors ended demanding their entire dues by today or they would not train.
ZIFA officials were then left scrambling to try and save the situation, and when it became apparent nothing would materialise, they sent spokesman Xolisani Gwesela to check with CAF the cost of withdrawing from the tournament.
“Gwesela has been sent to establish how much it will cost to withdraw from the tournament because of events that happened today,” sources told The Herald.
A number of players also confirmed they had told the ZIFA officials they were ready to abandon camp and fly back home.
“We were called in and told of the developments about the possible withdrawal from the tournament and we told them that we were ready to go home because we believe they haven’t fulfilled our contracts,” one of the players said.
“We have an agreement with them and it has to be fulfilled.”
The players said even though they played the match against Uganda, a chunk of their appearance fees, US$2 500 had not been paid.
It also emerged that Tino Kadewere and Tafadzwa Kutinyu were set to be sent home as a disciplinary measure after they fought in camp but had been kept a secret by the team management. Kutinyu is currently out of the tournament after sustaining an injury during training.
Midfielder Kuda Mahachi was also set to be sent home for allegedly violating the team’s disciplinary code when he went on social media to question why he was being sidelined from selection.
Zimbabwe faces the possibility of being banned from a number of AFCON finals, in what would be a huge blow to the next generation of its footballers, if the team pulls out of this tournament.
Key midfielder Marvelous Nakamba would have been a major doubt for the match against the DRC as he was limping badly yesterday, but he said he could make it.
“Let’s see what happens in the next few days,” he said.
Leftback Devine Lunga also suffered an injury in the game against Uganda and his knee had swollen badly by yesterday and could be a big doubt for the match against the DRC.