Gutu owns up to trip of shame, sends SOS for stranded teen footballers

Archford Gutu

WHAT started off as a dream tour to Dubai for aspiring teenage footballers has turned out into a full nightmare after the man behind the trip, Archford Gutu, yesterday owned up to his fault and asked for assistance from home to help repatriate the stranded boys.

Eight teenage Zimbabwean footballers are in trouble with the United Arab Emirates immigration laws after they overstayed for more than 50 days in Dubai, accumulating daily fines and ballooning debts in Middle East hotels. The players are part of the Archford Gutu Boys Academy that travelled to the United Arab Emirates on February 24 to feature in some matches with the promise of securing professional contracts.

But they would soon run into all sorts of problems.

Some of the parents of the stranded boys accused Gutu of extorting them after he had asked for more money to look after the boys in the foreign lands.

Initially, Gutu had denied that the trip was in shambles after the disillusioned parents raised the alarm last week, alleging their sons were starving and literally homeless as they got into trouble with the management at the hotels, who are holding on to their passports until the outstanding bills are settled.

Some Zimbabweans based in the United Arab Emirates in their individual capacities, have stepped in to assist the players in securing decent rented accommodation.

The players were now staying in dangerous dungeons in downtown Deira and sometimes would go to Sharjah to look for accommodation. Some days the players would go to bed on empty stomachs.

The boys, some of whom have missed school this term, are traumatised and they want to get back home. Gutu yesterday apologised to the parents while appealing for assistance for the safe repatriation of the boys.

Apart from the penalties for breaching the UAE immigration laws by overstaying, it was estimated yesterday that the children have so far accumulated hotel bills of 55 000 dirhams (which is about US$18 000) and the figure is accumulating with each extra day they spend in the Middle East country.

“Parents, I want to give an update concerning the situation with the children,” Gutu said in an audio circulated to the parents of the affected children yesterday.

“Firstly, I would like to thank you for trusting me with your children on this trip. But to be honest, things are not going well this side.

“I have failed. I misused the funds and because of that the children are not living comfortably here. So, I am kindly asking you parents to help me reach out to the whole of Zimbabwe, tell them that I have failed on this trip and the children are facing a lot of challenges because of me.

“It’s a situation that’s causing me a lot of pain and distress. So, I thought I should tell you about the situation. If possible, please facilitate that I engage with the embassy in UAE.

“I am sorry for putting the children through this kind of situation. To the football fraternity, please also forgive me because I thought my intentions were good, not knowing that it would come to this. Because of that, please forgive me,” said Gutu.

The parents are disappointed and have since opened a police case against the former footballer. Gutu and his wife Mona Dube, travelled with 17 players to Dubai in March but nine have since returned.

The remaining children are now stranded, without return tickets as well as their traveling documents. Two of the parents who came to The Herald last week said the footballer’s demands for money from parents were bordering on extortion.

Nyaradzai Magovera, who is sister to AG Boys player Kembo Moyana, who is one of the players in Dubai told The Herald that she smelled a rat when Gutu requested an additional US$2 500 per player from the parents.

Magovera said Gutu has been promising parents that he will secure professional contracts for the players in Europe.

Another parent Yvonne Jonas, who is mother to the academy’s skipper Blessing Jonas said his 21-year-old son was home-sick.

“They are complaining of hunger and are now being fed baked beans every day. We have been sending money but we are now tired and we want our children back.

“When they went to Dubai they were promised that they would be linked to Sweden agents but we heard only a Nigerian organised some matches for them in Dubai and those from Sweden never came,” said Jonas.

Academy captain Blessing Jonas, Kembo Moyana, Tino Zaranyika, Nigel Mandibatsira, Nyasha Mulongoti, Craig Mutakura, and Tinashe Junior Gutu are stuck in UAE, together with Gutu and his family.

Gutu’s AG Boys Academy is based at Mount Pleasant High and it opened its doors to players last year.  However, ZIFA spokesperson Xolisani Gwesela yesterday said the academy was not registered with the association, and neither did it seek clearance from the responsible authorities as is the case with all foreign trips on football business.

“First of all the academy is not registered with the association. As ZIFA we don’t even know he runs an academy because there is no paperwork to support that,” said Gwesela.

“Secondly, ZIFA didn’t authorise the trip. Ordinarily a club or academy that intends to travel for such football business writes to ZIFA and the association in turn approaches the Sports and Recreation Commission for clearance.

“That did not happen. So, we don’t know about the trip. We just read about it in the press and ZIFA does not have control over anyone who sneaks out of the country for football business with no clearance from either the association or the SRC.

“Gutu is such an experienced player and should have known better. We sympathise with the children and the parents for having gone through all this distress.

“We always encourage parents to check with ZIFA whether an academy they are sending their child to is registered with ZIFA to avoid being shortchanged. In the meantime, we urge the parents and all that can assist to facilitate the safe return of these children,” said Gwesela.

The Zimbabwean embassy has since informed the players that they can only facilitate but are not in a position to assist the stranded young athletes financially.


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