By Sikhumbuzo Moyo and Tadious Manyepo
FC Platinum coach, Pieter de Jongh, was on Saturday barred from entering South Africa, en-route to Eswatini.
Sources said he didn’t have the required Covid-19 testing certificate, and a clearance letter from the South African Embassy in Harare.
The Dutchman, however, claims he had the Covid-19 certificate after being tested at a Gweru private clinic on Thursday, which cleared him, and the only reason he couldn’t proceed to Eswatini was because of a communication breakdown.
He also refuted claims he intended to meet potential new employers in Eswatini, but instead, said he wanted to utilise his visit to arrange a training camp for his club as part of preparations for the next edition of the CAF Champions League.
Sources had claimed the coach was already in Eswatini, to meet up with potential employers, believed to be Football Association of Zambia, after the coach last week posted a message on his Twitter handle in which he tagged the Chipolopolo page.
“The gentleman was turned back on the South African side of the border because his papers didn’t add up,’’ sources said.
“He did not have the Covid-19 certificate to show that he wasn’t a virus carrier and, also, the clearance from the South African Embassy for him to enter the country.’’
Responding to the allegations he was denied entry, the coach said it was because of a communication breakdown, which was being sorted out.
“I had all the papers, but one. I was tested for coronavirus in Gweru on Thursday and I don’t have the virus,’’ he said. “I also have a letter from my very professional employers, FC Platinum, who knew where I was going.
“And, another letter from the Eswatini football authorities who, by the way, remain very good friends of mine, having been their employee.
“There was just a small communication breakdown that required me to have a letter from the South African Embassy so that I can pass through their country on my way to Eswatini, a visit which, by the way, was more private.
“I also wanted to organise a camp for my club, as part of our preparations for the CAF Champions League.
“It’s not true that I was going to meet my so-called potential employers, I am very happy here at FC Platinum, it’s a professional institute and my contract here is a long one.
“I have all the intentions of fulfilling it. Once the proper papers are sorted out, I will definitely make the trip to Eswatini.’’
The coach revealed he is having a hard time, providing reassurance to his players, amid the uncertainty surrounding the start of the 2020 Premiership season.
“I am impressed by the level of commitment being displayed by my players,’’ he said.
“You know, I have had to work extra hard to make sure they keep calm. They are keen to see the season start.
“The game is on lockdown and I make sure I talk to my players every time. You can easily pick that the players are now tired of sitting at home.
“I have intensified their individual work-out programmes, but you know, they are used to training in groups.
“Life comes before everything else so, we have chosen life, and the Government has chosen to preserve life than risk it for the sake of football.
“The main problem is mental. I have been telling my players to keep focus and keep on hoping that everything shall be well.’’
Prior to the lockdown, FC Platinum had not rested for the past three years, with the club fighting on two fronts in the local league, and in the CAF Champions League.
“I inherited a team which is used to non-stop football action,’’ he said.
“This is a team which, until March this year, had never really rested.
“What it means is that the team had somehow become used to playing football every week.
“But after three months of non-action, the players are beginning to show some signs of distress.
“I, therefore, had to raise my own game as their coach, talking to them and, at least, making sure they keep focused at a time like this.”
The Dutchman is also longing for the return of football action.
“I had built a strong team and I knew we were going to have a flying start,’’ he said.
“But, things had to turn out this way.
“It is my hope that the league starts in September while the CAF Champions League comes a month later.
“I am here to coach football and I hope football returns soon.” The Herald