Eddie Chikamhi Senior Sports Reporter
ZIFA were almost caught offside on the eve of the 2019 Nations Cup finals after the players threatened to throw a damper on last night’s opening match against Egypt because of unpaid fees and allowances.
Apparently, the players had lost trust with the association following a delay in the payment of their dues as per agreement.
But there was good news yesterday when the monies reflected in the players’ bank accounts. The players had demanded a down payment of roughly US$9 000 each to cover their dues from the time they began the final AFCON preparations in Egypt and the recent COSAFA Cup tournament.
ZIFA acting vice president Philemon Machana yesterday maintained that ZIFA had played their part in releasing the funds, but the money reflected late in their respective bank accounts. He argued the stand-off with the national team players could have been avoided if all communication channels had been utilised.
“It was quite unfortunate, but I think it was a matter of a communication breakdown. The money was transferred to the players’ bank accounts when we received their signed contracts on Wednesday. We have the stamped receipts from the bank to that effect, copies of which have been sent to the Ministry of Sport.
“I am sure there were delays at the bank and we have been pushing for the monies to reflect. But it was a matter of someone from the team management to get hold of the (ZIFA) office and report that the monies were not reflecting in their accounts so that we do the follow-ups. If that was done, we probably would not have had such an experience,” said Machana.
The Government had to intervene on Thursday evening to arrest the situation from degenerating. Acting Minister of Sport, Kazembe Kazembe, was livid with the developments in the camp, but managed to address the players and convinced them to fulfil their obligation.
Machana, who couldn’t travel to Egypt because of other commitments, said ZIFA and the Warriors had signed a contract which both parties were willing to honour and respect. He said they had agreed on a minimum amount to be transferred into the players’ bank accounts before kick-off of the tournament.
“We had three schedules for the daily allowances from June 9-20, then from June 21-July 1 and the appearance fees for all the three group phases. The contract we drafted for the players was two-legged. The first leg was the commitment to pay the agreed minimum whether we get support from the fundraising committee or not.
“The second leg was an upgrade to factor in whatever was realised from the fundraising efforts. So we had done our part to meet the minimum,” said Machana.
The ZIFA finance supremo also defended the decision by the association to charter a flight for dozens of their councillors, supporters and journalists. He said they used funds from ZIFA’s own coffers.
“It’s ZIFA who chartered that plane using our own funds that were meant for that purpose. It wasn’t from the fundraising committee. We believe the councillors and the supporters that travelled are among some of the number one fans of the Warriors. They are football people.
“If you look at the travelling list, you will actually find that the same faces that you always see at our football matches are the same people who travelled to support the team. Why should we deny them the opportunity? Of course we could not fund everyone who wanted to go to Egypt, but we did what we could. Instead of vilifying us, the narrative should actually be around what we could have done better to send more people to Egypt because our team needs the backing,” said Machana.
Meanwhile, the Sports and Recreation Commission board is set to investigate ZIFA over their handling of the AFCON funds and the strike by the Warriors on the eve of the match against Egypt.
“The SRC will investigate thoroughly all allegations relating to ZIFA’s shortcomings and will institute the necessary and decisive disciplinary measures once facts have been established with all material stakeholders.
“In the meantime, the SRC calls upon the nation to focus and rally behind our beloved Warriors, with the promise of remedial action once the AFCON tournament is over,” read a statement from the SRC Board led by Gerald Mlotshwa.