THE long journey which the Zimbabwe national soccer team, the Warriors, started on September 8 2002 at the National Sports Stadium, enters the last lap on Monday when the team leaves for Tunisia
But, the Warriors’ travel arrangements were still shrouded in uncertainty and controversy by yesterday.
The journey started with an inspiring 1-0 victory over fancied Mali and was reinforced by more victories against Eriteria and Seychelles which guaranteed the Warriors a maiden appearance at the African Nations Cup finals.
The journey however suffered a huge set-back as the euphoria of qualification faded away and the ineptitude of local soccer administration as well as government hypocrisy ushered in an era of ultra-confusion.
Preparations for the prestigious tournament never assumed a coherent form and the Warriors indeed go to Tunisia as a fragile unit of bits and pieces.
Only two friendly matches against Botswana and El Salvador were organised for the Warriors. Both yielded little, if anything, in assisting coach Sunday Marimo to prepare the team.
The team is scheduled to leave on Monday for Tunisia via London in a chartered plane.
However, sources at the Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) yesterday said the plane being organised by the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (CAAZ) had not been confirmed by Wednesday.
Zifa chief executive officer Edgar Rodgers yesterday referred questions regarding the travel arrangements to CAAZ and Air Zimbabwe.
“The team should be leaving on Monday. But on the issue of the travel arrangements, speak to Mr (Karikoga) Kaseke or Rambai Chingwena (Air Zimbabwe managing director).”
Kaseke, the CAAZ chief executive officer was said to be in meetings whilst Chingwena was out of office.
It was also not clear yesterday whether a decision regarding the mysterious role and contractual agreement of Italian-based sports consultant L-Sporto had been made since Sports and Recreation Commission chairman Anthony Mandiwanza called for aprobe last week. Mandiwanza launched investigations into the role of L-Sporto and the agreement with Zifa following the bungling of the El Salvador friendly.
Rodgers referred questions to the Warriors Trust, formed to oversee the team’s preparations last year by Information minister Jonathan Moyo without the assent of Education, Sports and Culture minister Aenias Chigwedere.
Chigwedere is on record denouncing the Warriors Trust.
Mandiwanza couldn’t be contacted for comment yesterday. His secretary repeatedly said “he is in and out of meetings and can’t speak to you on that issue”.
Marimo on Tuesday announced a 22-member squad that excluded playmakers Richard Choruma and Francis Chandida. True to his reputation of believing in defencive approach, Marimo included eight defenders and three defencive midfielders in the squad.
The responsibility to spearhead the Warriors’ campaign will once again be thrust on the shoulders of England-based captain, Peter Ndlovu.
The Warriors kick off their campaign against Egypt on January 25 before taking on Cameroon and Algeria.