Eddie Chikamhi Senior Sports Reporter
WARRIORS skipper Knowledge Musona has revealed that lies by the ZIFA board and the lack of trust in the football leadership were at the root of the problems that bedevilled the Zimbabwe national football team camp at the AFCON tournament in Egypt two years ago.
The 31-year-old skipper disclosed this in his submissions to the Sports and Recreation Commission, who had wanted to conduct investigations into how the Zimbabwe team hogged the limelight for the wrong reasons during the trip of shame.
However, the ZIFA leadership, which also faced allegations of financial misappropriation, have been trying to scuttle investigations and have not made their own submissions two years on, despite continued requests from the national sports regulator.
Musona said players had lost trust in the football leadership who always negotiated in bad faith before and during the tournament. The Warriors almost threw a damper on the tournament when they threatened to boycott the opening match against hosts Egypt, leading to the intervention of the CAF officials.
“We started having problems when we found out that our money for the first match, which according to the agreement, should be paid in full before the match, was not paid as agreed.
“We started having meetings, at which meetings, conflicting statements were said and that was on a Thursday, some to the effect that CAF money which was supposed to be used to pay us had not been paid.
“But another ZIFA official confirmed that the money from CAF had indeed been paid, meaning there was money to pay us, yet we remained unpaid on the eve of the opening match.
“This caused a standoff that resulted in threats to boycott the opener until the money was paid. But even then we were paid just USD7200 which we considered that it covered the first game.
“Even CAF leadership came that night before the game and told us they are surprised with our financial problems and threats of boycott yet ZIFA was paid some money by CAF.
“Mr Amaju Pinnick of Nigeria and Antony Baffoe of CAF secretariat encouraged us to play the match. They said NFF had paid for everything for Zimbabwe coming to Egypt (after hosting the Warriors for a pre-tournament friendly match in Nigeria).
“We needed to have been focusing ahead of matches but we were always bogged down in meetings with ZIFA officials over money,” said Musona.
The Warriors performed badly at the tournament and finished bottom in their group after suffering losses to Egypt and DR Congo and drawing with Uganda.
Apart from the money that ZIFA had received from CAF to take care of the tournament expenses, Government and the corporate sector had also chipped in via the fund-raising initiative that was headed by Minister Kazembe Kazembe.
However, the money generated from the fund-raising activities was not specifically for player allowances but for other expenses in the camp.
The players and ZIFA agreed on US$5 000 appearance fees for each game. Musona, who was the go-between linking the layers and the leadership, said the false promises by ZIFA took a toll on him.
ZIFA had lied that they had an agreement with the fund-raising committee to pay part of the fees while the committee would take charge of the larger part. Some of the meetings had to run the whole night into the early hours the next day.
“As captain I found that draining but the minister Kazembe Kazembe came and addressed us explaining in front of everyone that they did not have any agreement with ZIFA to pay a certain amount but that they had an obligation as in their terms of reference to assist players financially with available resources. Yet, before that ZIFA had told us that the fundraising committee will be paying US$3 500 of the US$5 000 appearance fee.
“That again further caused worry in camp because we noticed we were being told lies. In short all that we agreed on was partially paid with the greater component of that payment coming from the Fundraising Committee.
“In a nutshell from the expected earnings during our stay in Cairo, we received US$16 500 leaving a balance of nearly US$4 500 per player including the daily allowances.
“The draw bonus of US$3 000 against Uganda is still outstanding. About 13 players even paid from their pockets for the flight from Cairo after we got knocked out because they wanted to immediately leave but for security reasons, were stopped from doing so until the flight in which all the players was ready.
“We later learnt that CAF then paid for Zimbabwe players flights but even after that myself, Danny Phiri and Lawrence Mhlanga paid for ourselves because they could not secure seats on that flight back home having been put on the next day flight together with some ZIFA officials.
“We wanted to leave with the rest of the guys so we had to pay for our own flights at the airport in Cairo. There is a general feeling that players are not important and that causes unnecessary friction as players feel they deserve some kind of respect; which respect was not being shown in all this ordeal.
“As players we felt we were not treated the way expected. As captain of the team I had to be asked everyday about money issues by players and it was difficult to keep them focused for matches because of these delays in payments ahead of matches as agreed.
“In future a better plan should be used to ensure the team concentrates on playing and not worry about money negotiations. In future, I think we need openness in the way we do things. Issues of player contracts and code of conduct should form the basis of our practice.
“While threats of boycotts were regrettable, they even helped to have players get the little that they got from the contracts. The crisis meetings were, in part, to blame for some of our performances because I remember one meeting which dragged until the next morning. We could avoid things like that as this affects team concentration and the way forward,” said Musona.