By Robson Sharuko
MOSES CHUNGA is furious after being ordered to spend a month working in the sugar estates of the Lowveld, as part of an induction programme to regularise his employment at Tongaat Hulett, sponsors of the Hippo Valley team he took into the Premiership.
The 48-year-old former Zimbabwe captain is considering his options after a stormy meeting with the management of the club and company that exploded when one of the managers told Chunga he would be expected to spend a month cutting sugar cane in the plantations as part of the induction formalities.
Chunga told The Herald yesterday he felt “humiliated” when he was advised that he would have to work on the sugar estates to be formally accommodated into the Hippo Valley family as a full-time employee of the company that sponsors the football club.
He insisted that he had not quit his post as coach of Hippo Valley, whom he guided into the Premiership in his first season in charge of the club this year to give the Lowveld its second top-flight team, but was reviewing his relationship with the team.
“There are some sensitive issues that have cropped up in the last couple of days that have complicated things down here and, sadly, what should have been a time for celebrations for us has become a time for tension,” said Chunga.
“I was called to a meeting with the club chairman and was told that the issue to be discussed was my contract, as we move forward, now that we had achieved what they asked me to do when they hired me, which was to take the team into the Premier League.
“The chairman opened the meeting by congratulating me for the success we had this season and thanking me, and the boys, for achieving the goals that the management had set for us at the beginning of the year.
“Then he introduced the manager from the human resources department who was representing the company, who are our sponsors, and that’s when things started to get a bit complicated. The manager from the human resources department said I would have to work in the sugar fields, cutting sugar cane, because that’s how one gets to be inducted into working for this company, and it was important that I also do that so that I get an appreciation of where the money that is sponsoring the team was coming from.
“He also said that I should appreciate that football wasn’t their core business, there was nothing really special about the team, and the company could do without the football club and I felt that all this was a humiliation and a deliberate attempt to frustrate me.”
No comment could be obtained from the club’s leadership last night. Chunga said he felt insulted, that someone could tell him that his reward for taking Hippo Valley into the Premiership would be a month spent working in the sugar plantations, and expressed his disappointment with his club chairman.
“I have a lot of respect for those people who work in the sugar fields, and what they do for the company, but that is not what I do for a living, I am a professional football coach, and in the past I was a professional football player,” said Chunga.
“My life starts and ends in the football field and those who recruited me from more than 400km away knew that I could only help them when it comes to football because that is the language that I understand.
“For someone to then come and tell me that I was supposed to work on the sugar fields, and say that is part and parcel of my job as coach of the team that I took into the Premiership is a bit disturbing and I made it clear to my chairman that it’s something that they should not expect to see me doing.
“I don’t know why some people just find a lot of joy in frustrating others or specialise in making life difficult for others and, after what we have done as a team, you would think that we are the toast of the community but some people have their own ideas and you feel they are not happy with our achievement.”
Chunga insisted he had not quit Hippo Valley, but said he was reviewing his position with the team, with the help of his club chairman, Tarisai Mudambanuki, whom he hailed as a man who had football at heart and played a big part in helping them achieve their dream of winning the ticket to the Premiership.
“When I left the meeting I made my feelings known to the chairman and he is the one who will sort this thing out and, until then, I don’t think I can discuss much about my future at the club, save to say that I am still the coach of Hippo Valley,” said Chunga.
“I take a lot of heart from the fact that I was successful, on the first attempt, and I have to give a lot of credit to the club’s management for the excellent support and the players who rose to the occasion and our fans who were supportive.
“I was hired on a mission to take the team into the Premier League and I have done that, we have broken new ground again, and some people here haven’t been in the situation where we find ourselves in today where we are set to play against the best teams in the country once again,” he said. The Herald