By Robson Sharuko and Eddie Chikamhi
The Warriors were yesterday barred from using the National Sports Stadium for their training session, in a shocking move by officials who manage the giant sports facility and sparking outrage among the team’s fans across the country.
Scores of fans reacted with rage, on many social media platforms, in the wake of the ugly events at the giant stadium yesterday.
The Warriors host Congo-Brazzaville at the National Sports Stadium on Sunday, in a final Nations Cup qualifier, which has generated massive interest throughout the country, needing just a draw to book a ticket to the showcase in Egypt.
But on a day in which the overwhelming support towards the team was highlighted by Harare businessman, Cohen Chimedza, the managing director of 4May shops who donated trendy suits to all the members of the Warriors’ squad, the team suffered a huge setback when they were barred from training at the giant stadium.
The Warriors had scheduled their first training session at the giant stadium yesterday, they trooped into camp on Monday and were given the greenlight to use the venue whose pitch was being attended to by authorities since last week following concerns it had become a bumpy surface.
But the plans for the players to have a feel of their home ground this week, ahead of their showdown against the Congolese, were shattered when the security personnel manning the giant stadium told the Warriors’ officials that they had been ordered not to allow the team to train there.
“When I arrived at the stadium, I was shocked to be advised that the team would not be allowed to use the ground for training because an official from the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing, identified only as Dzukwa, said that some complications had arisen,’’ Warriors team manager Wellington Mpandare told our sister paper, The Herald.
“The officials from the ministry which is in charge of the stadium said they were not happy that Zifa had not provided them with access to the electronic system that the association is using to sell tickets because they get a percentage from the gross amount realised from the sale of the tickets, they felt they needed to monitor the electronic process.
“I reasoned with them that since the Warriors are representing the entire country and are on national duty, they should be allowed to train while whatever issues might exist between Zifa and them could be dealt with later because if we lost a whole day of training especially the first day back at the National Sports Stadium, we would not be able to make up for it.
“I argued that other issues can be dealt with any other day, in the evening or later that night but once we lost training time then we wouldn’t be able to get it back but the officials would not listen and one of them even told me that we should try training at Zifa House.
“It’s sad that it has come to this and there appears to be some people who don’t appreciate the magnitude of this match and that this isn’t about these boys or the coaches or even Zifa, but it’s about the entire nation. This is an assignment too big to belong to Zifa alone or the coaches nor the players alone.’’
An official, who is part of the management team at the giant stadium, said the contentious issue was related to Zifa’s failure to pay the $500 which was required for two hours of training and this had led to the fallout yesterday but said the issue had now been resolved.
However, a Zifa official said their chief executive, Joseph Mamutse, advised the ministry in a letter dispatched on March 18 that the cost of the training facilities at the giant stadium would have to be deducted together with the 12 percent of gross, which goes to the ministry, from the gate receipts after the match.
“The Zimbabwe Football Association sincerely requests your office to allow them to use your facilities for training sessions and you will deduct the fees from proceeds of the actual match,’’ wrote Mamutse.
“Depending on the level of the team, some training sessions will be conducted on the B Arena but the senior team always requires the main arena. “Besides the official training sessions on the match venue a day before matches, our teams require other training slots to adequately acclimatise to pitch conditions and fully exploit home advantage.
“We will furnish your office with actual training periods that teams require. Thank you for your co-operation.’’
The Zifa official, who chose to remain anonymous, said he didn’t want to be dragged into the boardroom squabbles, said when they didn’t receive a response from the ministry officials, they thought everything was in order.
“The issue isn’t about the $500 rental fee for each session because we did not receive any letter from the stadium management that we should pay it in advance and even yesterday, the Zifa president (Felton Kamambo), acting vice-president (Philemon Machana) and technical director (Wilson Mtekedede), went to the giant stadium yesterday and were told the same story about access to the server where the tickets are being sold electrically,’’ he said.
“Normally, when tickets are sold at the gates, the ministry have a representative, sometimes two, three or four representatives, and they check all the tickets before they are sold and, after the game, they do the reconciliation with the Zifa officials so that they confirm how many have been sold and what their percentage is.
“Now with the change in the system, they say that they won’t be able to verify the exact number of tickets sold and they have a problem with that and this is what finally led to the events which happened yesterday.
“On Monday, officials from the ministry came to Zifa House and we signed the contract for them to get 12 percent of gross gate receipts and they did not raise any issue about us having to pay $500 a day in advance for training and even this morning (yesterday), when all the stakeholders met to plan for the game, the issue was not raised.’’
Reports last night also indicated that only 20 turnstiles, out of a possible 32, were functional at the giant stadium and, four months after fans were stranded outside because they were few entry points, when the Warriors hosted DRC, the issue hasn’t been resolved. The Chronicle