WARRIORS DOWN TOOLS . . . Zifa NC play down stand-off

PREPARATIONS for the Warriors’ second 2026 World Cup qualifier against Nigeria scheduled for Huye Stadium in Butare this Sunday were yesterday disrupted as players refused an afternoon training session over unpaid bonuses, appearance fees and allowances. 

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 Zimpapers Sports for focusing on “negatives.” 

After opening the campaign with a goalless draw against Rwanda at the same venue on Wednesday, Zimbabwe need to pick a positive result when they “host” Nigeria on Sunday to give themselves a better chance of qualifying for quadrennial fiesta for the first time. 

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. 

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?

“I thought we should be concentrating on giving these players space to shine. We should not look much into these negatives. 

“There are some delays here and there. But everything is under control”. 

Although Sunday’s match is in Butare, some 126km from the capital, the team had to shift base to Kigali due to lack of proper training facilities in Rwanda’s third biggest city. 

One senior player who cannot be named said the ZIFA NC was taking the players for granted. “They (NC) tried to talk to us as they wanted us to be patient but previous experiences taught us otherwise,” he said. 

“We need them to deliver on their promises. We are not betraying the nation and that is never our intention. We love our country so much and will fight for the badge but obviously we need the NC to deliver what they would have promised”.


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