Sikhumbuzo Moyo, Senior Sports Reporter
ZIFA were on Wednesday mired in an embarrassing protocol gaffe that resulted in the visiting Lesotho national soccer team being held up at the Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo International Airport for more than three hours.
The police were also not informed of the arrival of the Likuena (Crocodiles) and the team was not escorted to their hotel as per protocol when they were finally released from the airport.
Likuena touched down in Bulawayo aboard an Air Zimbabwe flight from OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa, at 2PM and only left for their hotel accompanied by Zifa Southern Region chairman Musa Mandaza at around 5:30PM after being informed of their presence.
Lesotho conducted their first training session at Gifford High School yesterday morning where they were accompanied by Zifa Bulawayo administrator Augustine Ndlovu, and again there was no police escort.
Zifa communications manager Xolisani Gwesela claimed they were not aware of Lesotho’s travelling itinerary hence the gaffe.
“We sent them an email enquiring about their itinerary, but they never responded. We were equally shocked to learn that they had since landed in Bulawayo,” said Gwesela.
However, Lesotho’s head of delegation Khiba Mohoanyane told a different version of events.
Mohoanyane told Chronicle Sport that Zifa chief executive officer Jonathan Mashingaidze knew of their arrival.
“I personally phoned your CEO (Mashingaidze) before we left home on Tuesday. Maybe he did not communicate with his counterparts. When we touched down at the airport, I also tried to phone him but he was no longer picking up his phone,” said Mohoanyane, who is also the Lesotho Football Association’s first vice-president.
He said they had to phone their association back home to inform them of their predicament at the airport.
“Our office back home did everything to get us released and I think that is the reason we then saw the regional chairman (Mandaza) coming to pick us up. He was a true gentleman as he apologised for the breakdown in communication.”
Meanwhile, the Premier Soccer League footed Lesotho’s one night stay at a city hotel before checking out yesterday for a lodge where Zifa will be responsible for their stay until they leave.
A hotel employee said they were instructed to put the Lesotho bill under the PSL account.
“A Zifa guy told us that the team was checking out but they could not just be let out without settling the bill. That is when the same guy said the PSL, who have an account with us, will settle the bill,” said the employee.
It was not immediately clear yesterday whether the PSL had given their consent to funding the Lesotho national team’s stay.