Zimbabwe’s future at AFCON hangs in the balance as players threaten to walk

Zimbabwe’s participation at the 2019 AFCON finals in Egypt is reportedly hanging in the balance Thursday night after a stalemate between the senior men’s team – the Warriors – and national soccer governing body Zimbabwe Football Association (ZIFA) over player dues.

State-controlled newspaper The Herald, which is accompanying the team to the African showcase, said ZIFA had advised the players they were contemplating the possibility of withdrawing the team from the tournament.

This followed a number of meetings between the two parties which had ended in stalemates. The players had threatened not to resume training Friday night unless they were paid the remaining 12,500 U.S. dollars each by the same day.

According to ZIFA officials, 5,500 U.S. dollars would be paid into their accounts on Friday. That amount includes the 2,500 U.S. dollars ZIFA said they had secured for each of the players, and the 3,000 U.S. dollars for each of them, which was promised by the fundraising committee.

That would have left the Warriors needing 5,000 U.S. dollars appearance fees, and 3,000 U.S. dollars bonuses for the draw against Uganda ahead of the match against the DRC.

However, things deteriorated sharply during the night and the Warriors ended demanding their entire dues by Friday or they would not train, the newspaper said.

Following the stalemate, ZIFA officials then sent spokesman Xolisani Gwesela to check with the Confederation of African Football (CAF) the cost of withdrawing from the tournament.

“Gwesela has been sent to establish how much it will cost to withdraw from the tournament because of events that happened today,” sources said.

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A number of players also confirmed they had told the ZIFA officials they were ready to abandon camp and fly back home.

“We were called in and told of the developments about the possible withdrawal from the tournament and we told them that we were ready to go home because we believe they haven’t fulfilled our contracts,” one of the players said.

“We have an agreement with them and it has to be fulfilled.”

The players said even though they played the match against Uganda, a chunk of their appearance fees, 2,500 U.S. dollars had not been paid.

It also emerged that players Tino Kadewere and Tafadzwa Kutinyu were set to be sent home as a disciplinary measure after they fought in camp. Kutinyu is currently not playing in the tournament after sustaining an injury during training.

Midfielder Kuda Mahachi was also set to be sent home for allegedly violating the team’s disciplinary code when he went on social media to question why he was being sidelined from selection.

Zimbabwe face the possibility of being banned from a number of AFCON finals, in what would be a huge blow to the next generation of its footballers, if the team pulls out of the on-going tournament, the paper warned.

The team still has a chance to progress to the knockout stage of the tournament if it wins convincingly against DRC following a 1 -1 draw with Uganda on Wednesday and a 0-1 loss to hosts Egypt in the opening game last Friday.

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