HARARE - The Zimbabwe national men’s soccer team, the Warriors, are living in appalling conditions after the Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) booked them at a “sub-standard lodge” whose facilities fall way short of minimum standards for a national side.
The Warriors are camped at a local lodge in preparation for their 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Guinea at Rufaro Stadium on Sunday.
A Daily News crew that visited the Warriors’ base found the lodge second-rate — with a very small swimming pool almost infested with algae, no gym, pokey bathrooms, and an unattractive lounge with small old-fashioned television sets — just to mention a few things.
The breakfast menu of bread, eggs and sausage is disappointing for the stars to say the least, especially foreign-based players, who are in camp for this important tie.
The lodge’s standards are well below par in pretty much every respect. The rooms are in need of total refurbishment to suit some of these players who are used to five-star treatment at their clubs outside the country.
Some of the players who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of victimisation said hot water often simply stops running as do the ancient air conditioners while the restaurant is very basic at best.
The Warriors, many of whom are foreign-based and are used to camping at five-star hotels with world-class facilities, are sharing rooms furnished with two bunk beds but only one chair.
Old television sets also make part of the rooms furnishing and by no stretch of the imagination does the lodge offer even single-star accommodation with the Warriors paying $70 per day yet the Warriors could have been booked into decent four-star hotels for $140 a double room, including breakfast.
Some of the players looked disconsolate as they prepared their training kits.
Analysts who spoke to the Daily News yesterday blasted Zifa for demoting the national team into a boozers’ team by booking them in a sub-standard lodge.
“Our position has been very clear on Zifa. They should set standards that should meet the national team. Some of the standards might de-motivate the players,” Footballers Union of Zimbabwe secretary-general Paul Gundani told the Daily News.
“There are certain standards for national teams across the world. Ours is appalling to say the least.
“The welfare of the players is very important and especially when they are preparing for such an important game.”
Zifa president Cuthbert Dube and his chief executive Jonathan Mashingaidze have come under fire for the way they have turned Zifa into a two-man show in recent years.
Any dissenting views are misconstrued as an attempt to topple Dube which has bred a culture of bootlicking at 53 Livingstone Avenue.
While factionalism and politicking have taken centre stage at Zifa, football on the other hand has been relegated to an afterthought.
Dube is fighting growing calls for him to resign, especially after the recent Warriors expulsion from the 2018 World Cup qualifiers by Fifa among other issues.
Zimbabwe was banned by Fifa from participating in the 2018 Russia World Cup qualifiers after failing to pay former coach Valinhos.
The Brazilian, who took charge of the Warriors between February and October 2008, is owed more than $60 000 by Zifa and he reported the matter to Fifa.
When the Warriors take to the field each time, a football-crazy nation will be rooting for them.
Many football lovers will be hoping to see the daring, imaginative play they have come to associate with the distinctive players, especially during the “Dream Team” era.
For many, the Warriors represent a symbol of joy. A football team that conjures up images of the game’s greatest players, playing the beautiful game in the most beautiful of ways.
It has become synonymous with the glamour, magic and fun of Zimbabwean football on the backs of players such as Peter Ndlovu, Moses Chunga, the late Benjamin Nkonjera and Norman Mapeza among others, who took football to new heights in this country.
It’s sad that our football leaders have chosen to let the country down.
Meanwhile, all the players went through their paces during the afternoon training session.
Skipper Willard Katsande, Matthew Rusike and Nyasha Mushekwi were the last foreign-based players to join camp yesterday.