Ellina Mhlanga Sports Reporter
MIGHTY Warriors players have decried ZIFA’s travel plans which saw them covering a gruelling road distance of over 1 000km from Port Elizabeth to Johannesburg, South Africa, yesterday after failing to secure flights on time.
The team — which settled for a bronze medal after beating Botswana 3-0 at the conclusion of the COSAFA Women’s Championship on Sunday — is expected back home today.
But there have been voices of discontent in their camp, with senior player Rudo Neshamba taking to social media to air their displeasure in the travel arrangements.
The Mighty Warriors and the Under-20 women’s football team had a strenuous week of competitive football and expected better arrangements to fly from Port Elizabeth to Harare.
A journey from Port Elizabeth to Johannesburg that was supposed to take them 1 hour 30 minutes by air was expected to take the two teams approximately 10 hours to complete by road and it is not ideal for sports-people who had been involved in such a week of rigorous action.
“Road trip to Jo’burg from Port Elizabeth . . . hahah ZIFA CHIWORORO GUYS. Gara zviya mahrs mangani??” Neshamba wrote on her Facebook page yesterday.
However, ZIFA yesterday assured them they were supposed to catch a connecting flight in Johannesburg today.
ZIFA spokesperson, Xolisani Gwesela said the team resorted to travelling by road after failing to secure flights from Port Elizabeth on time.
“They are coming tomorrow (today), they are travelling from Port Elizabeth to Johannesburg by road. Then they connect from Johannesburg to Harare by air. They arrive tomorrow evening.
“The flights were fully booked, it’s not only Zimbabwe that have had challenges. Even Zambia had challenges, flights were fully booked, so we couldn’t secure their return today.
“Remember when it’s a tournament you book your flights based on what stage of the tournament they reach. So return flights will be booked based on what stage they reach, they can be group stage . . .But they reached the semi-finals meaning that as we tried to book in line with the stage they reached, flights were fully booked.
“There is no problem whatsoever with the Mighty Warriors and everything is sorted. They are coming tomorrow (today). They are coming together with the Under-20 side because they both reached the same stage, so it’s the same travelling itinerary.
“Itinerary is complete, so now it was because the tournament was over, they couldn’t remain in Port Elizabeth. So the best option was to take them by road to Johannesburg and fly them back home tomorrow (today),” said Gwesela.
The senior women’s football team got bronze at the just-ended tournament after they beat Botswana 3-0 in the third place play-off. They had lost 1-3 to tournament winners South Africa in the semi-finals.
The Mighty Warriors had hoped to win their second title at the regional tournament having been crowned champions once in 2011 when they hosted the competition.
But they could not go past the semi-finals after they lost to Banyana Banyana, who went on to beat Zambia 1-0 to retain the title.
The Under-20 side also reached the semi-finals of the inaugural developmental tournament but lost 1-0 to Zambia before another defeat to South Africa on penalties in the third place-off.
However, for both the Mighty Warriors and Under-20s it was a brave show taking into account they had limited time to prepare for the tournament.
“After having prepared for just five days for the tournament, I must say, the ladies did exceptionally well,” Neshamba also posted on her Facebook wall at the weekend.