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Breaking! Zimbabwe players boycott training ahead of match with Nigeria

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BY KUNLE SOLAJA.

Officials of the Zimbabwe Football Association (ZIFA) had to run around on Friday to source for money to pay the allowances of the national team players who boycotted training ahead of Sunday clash with Nigeria.

The Warriors of Zimbabwe had a good result in their Wednesday’s match with Rwanda, playing a goalless draw. But the euphoria of their getting a point from the game soon faded as the players demanded for their allowances.

A training scheduled for Friday afternoon was feared to suffer another boycott.

Sports Village Square gathered from Zimbabwe that some players arrived Rwanda on the morning of Wednesday opener against Rwanda and did not train for the match.

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On Thursday, while Coach Baltemar Brito went to the bus at the agreed time, players remained in their rooms and after about 45 minutes the Highlanders FC mentor abandoned the mission and left the bus.

Coach Baltemar Brito was made to sit on the bus for about 45 minutes waiting for players, who stayed in their rooms, and later disembarked in frustration. The team later visited the Zimbabwe embassy in Kigali for a date with the ambassador, Professor Charity Manyeruke after a brief “recovery session” in the gym at the hotel.

The ZIFA Normalisation Committee immediately tried to play down the discontent and, instead, attacked the Zimbabwe newspapers  for focusing on “negatives.”

The players want their daily allowances paid and are also demanding they get something from their draw against Rwanda.

The Normalisation Committee reportedly promised US$2 000 for a win but said nothing on drawn matches. And the players flatly refused to go for a scheduled session in Kigali’s favourable weather demanding they get paid first. Although there were some social media reports back home suggesting that the players had not trained due to rains that supposedly poured in the Rwandan capital, Zimpapers Sports can reveal that there was no rain or any signs of rain in Rwanda.

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As players remained in their rooms, members of the Zifa NC, who took with them a bloated delegation, were engaging in a marathon meeting downstairs of their Kigali hotel.

ZIFA NC chairperson Lincoln Mutasa tried to play the strike down. “This is not a strike. We had to wait for the embassy to give us time to visit them. This is why as the ZIFA NC, we are creating our own media within ZIFA,” he fumed. “Why do you guys want to dwell so much on something that you see is negative?

 

Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.