Eddie Chikamhi, Harare Bureau
ZIFA were almost caught off-side on the eve of the 2019 African Cup of Nations finals after the players threatened to throw a damper on last night’s opening match against Egypt because of unpaid fees and allowances.
Apparently the players had lost faith in the association following a delay in the payment of their dues as per agreement.
But there was good news yesterday when the monies reflected in the players’ bank accounts. The players had demanded a down payment of roughly US$9 000 each to cover their dues from the time they began the final Afcon preparations in Egypt and the recent Cosafa Cup tournament.
Zifa acting vice-president, Philemon Machana, yesterday maintained that Zifa had played their part in releasing the funds but the money reflected late in their respective bank accounts.
He argued the stand-off with the national team players could have been avoided if all communication channels had been utilised.
“It was quite unfortunate but I think it was a matter of a communication breakdown. The money was transferred to the players’ bank accounts when we received their signed contracts on Wednesday.
“We have the stamped receipts from the bank to that effect, copies of which have been sent to the Ministry of Sport.
“I am sure there were delays at the bank and we have been pushing for the monies to reflect.
“But it was just a case of someone from the team management getting hold of the (Zifa) office and report that the monies were not reflecting in their accounts so that we do the follow-ups. If that was done, we probably would not have had such an experience,” said Machana.
The Government had to intervene on Thursday evening to make sure the situation does not degenerate. Acting Minister of Sport, Kazembe Kazembe, was livid with the developments in the camp but managed to address the players and convinced them to fulfil their obligation.
Machana, who couldn’t travel to Egypt because of other commitments, said Zifa and the Warriors had signed a contract which both parties were willing to honour and respect.
He said they had agreed on a minimum amount to be transferred into the players’ bank accounts before kick-off of the tournament.
“We had three schedules for the daily allowances from June 9-20, then from June 21-July 1 and the appearance fees for all the three group phases.
“The contract we drafted for the players was two-legged. The first leg was the commitment to pay the agreed minimum whether we get support from the fund-raising committee or not. The second leg was an upgrade to factor in whatever was realised from the fund-raising efforts. So we had done our part to meet the minimum,” said Machana.
The Zifa finance supremo also defended the decision by the association to charter a flight for dozens of their councillors, supporters and journalists. He said they used funds from Zifa’s own coffers.
“It’s Zifa who chartered that plane using our own funds that were meant for that purpose. It wasn’t from the fund-raising committee. We believe the councillors and the supporters that travelled are among some of the number one fans of the Warriors. They are football people.
“If you look at the travelling list, you will actually find that the same faces that you always see at our football matches are the same people who travelled to support the team. Why should we deny them the opportunity?
“Of course, we could not fund everyone who wanted to go to Egypt but we did what we could. Instead of vilifying us, the narrative should actually be around what we could have done better to send more people to Egypt because our team needs the backing,” said Machana.