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Warriors face disqualification from AFCON after ZIFA ‘messes’ up

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The Zimbabwe senior men’s football team risk disqualification from the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals set for Gabon in January after Zifa bungled the team’s travelling arrangements.

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The Warriors were still stranded in the capital yesterday, with the football mother body insisting the team was leaving this morning on a 2:20am flight.

However, sources told NewsDay Sport yesterday that Zifa had failed to secure seats for the flight and their trip to Conakry for their Afcon final qualifier against Guinea was in doubt.

Should they fail to fulfil the match, the Warriors, who have already booked their ticket to the Gabon finals, would be disqualified.

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The broke Zifa only secured money for tickets for the team late yesterday, when mobile network provider NetOne chipped in with a $68 000 sponsorship.

“Zifa had booked seats with Kenya Airways, but had not paid,” the source said.

“The seats were not confirmed, so they were given to other customers. Only 10 seats were available as of this evening, but I understand they are also no longer available.”

Zifa were made aware about the situation soon after receiving the sponsorship from NetOne when they were trying to confirm the seats with their travel agent.

The football association’s president, Philip Chiyangwa, could be heard talking to an official from a travel agent on the phone with an instruction to book the team to Ethiopia, but it appears the agent told him that they wouldn’t be able to secure a connecting flight to Conakry.

But the adamant Chiyangwa seemed insistent on that arrangement, saying: “We will see what we can do when we get to Addis Ababa.”

The Warriors’ initial itinerary shows that they were supposed to leave Harare just after midnight and arrive in Conakry at around 9pm today, where they would meet up with the foreign-based players, who were scheduled to fly straight to the West African country.

When asked for an update on the team’s travelling arrangements last night, Zifa acting chief executive officer, Joseph Mamutse said: “We haven’t concluded as yet, we are still working on it. The position is still the same and if there is any changes, it will be communicated.”

Zifa spokesperson, Xolisani Gwesela is already in Guinea, having left the country on Thursday.

Another source, yesterday, said the association was making frantic efforts to charter a plane to Guinea.

Even if that plan succeeds, the team will still arrive just a few hours before the match and will not have time to train together with the European-based players.

The Group L dead rubber will be played at Stade du 28 Septembre tomorrow evening. Kick-off is 7pm local time and the match will be shown live on SuperSport.

NetOne had appeared to rescue the situation by providing $68 217 for the air tickets for the team.

The cheque was handed over to Chiyangwa and his deputy, Omega Sibanda at the company’s offices yesterday. Also at the ceremony were Warriors coach, Kalisto Pasuwa and the team’s captain, Willard Katsande.

NetOne public relations officer, John Nyashanu said: “When Zifa approached NetOne saying they were in a tight situation because the team needed to travel to Guinea, failure of which we could be disqualified, as NetOne, we really saw this as a national problem. Zifa cannot do it alone, they need corporate players.So we sat down and agreed that this is a worthwhile cause and we ought to intervene and save our Warriors. Hence, we have seen it befitting to partner Zifa to ensure that our team participates in the Africa Cup of Nations final match away to Guinea. To Zifa, we are in it together.”

Chiyangwa said: “We had hoped that some funds would hit our account from somewhere, but there was nothing up to yesterday (Thursday). I only called NetOne yesterday for assistance and here we are. I’m very happy that you have helped us, and I’m hopeful that we will do well in Guinea.”

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