THE saga in which local premiership champions Monomotapa posed as Zimbabweâ€™s national football team on a tour of Malaysia took another turn last night with spokesmen for the two football associations issuing contrasting statements.
A Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) official was quoted by the Malaysian press as saying Zifa had confirmed sending the Warriors for the two friendlies, which the Malaysians won 4-0 and 1-0, while in an interview with IndependentSport last night, Zifa chief executive Henrietta Rushwaya insisted that the Malaysians were informed of Monomotapaâ€™s visit in place of the Warriors.
FAM, which has been fireâ€“fighting since it was discovered that the team donning the Zimbabwe national team kit was in fact a club side, has not replied to questions sent by this paper.
FAM were initially silent on the issue, but when confronted by local journalists on Wednesday they were forced to speak out.
Â â€œLook at this letter and tell me what you understand from it,â€ FAM general secretary Datuk Azzudin told the media.
â€œIt states clearly they are sending their national team. From one national FA to another, there has to be mutual respect. When we are told that this is their national team, we take their word for it. We do not question it because that would be questioning their integrity.â€
Rushwaya yesterday said her association had not deceived the Malaysians in their effort to help Monoz with preparations for their African Champions League mini-league phase opener with Etoile du Sahel of Tunisia on Sunday in Harare.
â€œWe received the invitation from FAM on Thursday and we only had four hours to confirm since the team had to fly out on Friday,â€ Rushwaya said.
â€œWe responded immediately saying we were interested in accepting the offer. We didnâ€™t immediately say we were sending the national team. The next thing was to go back to do our in-house planning. The Malaysians were only paying for accommodation, food, laundry and local transport, so we then decided that we didnâ€™t have funds for air-tickets on such short notice. We then gave the offer to Monomotapa, who agreed to tour.â€
Rushwaya blamed bad communication for not relaying the Monomotapa decision on time, but said a letter explaining the move was sent with club official Bhekitemba Ndlovu. Rushwaya said she did not sign the letter because she was on leave.
IndependentSport saw a copy of the letter, which reads:
â€œWe would like to confirm that our association has not been able to come up with the official representative national team of Zimbabwe to fulfil this friendly match.
â€œThe reason for this is that the majority of our foreign-based players are back at their bases for pre-season training and assembling a national team of locally-based players will disrupt our domestic premiership season, which is resuming this week after a two-week break.â€
The invitation was duly given to Monomotapa, who accepted it.
But the question that will be raised is how Monoz managed to travel when they are struggling to foot costs for their African Champions League campaign.
A top club official, Solomon Mugavazi, who is also a Zifa board member, travelled with the team to Kuala Lumpur.
Reads the letter by Rushwaya: â€œMonomotapa are a Harare-based club who are the current champions of Zimbabwe and are coached by Rodwell Dhlakama, who was in charge of the Zimbabwe Under 17 team during the successful qualifying process of the 2009 African Youth Championship.
â€œMonomotapa have also qualified for the mini-league phase of the CAF Champions League and are preparing for a game against Etoile du Sahel of Tunisia.â€
Yet while in Malaysia, Monomotapa assistant coach Taurayi Mangwiro is said to have postured as the Zimbabwe assistant coach during a press conference.
Â He said: â€œSince we have failed to qualify for the 2010 World Cup, we will now gather again and train hard for our coming international (friendly) matches.â€
Rushwaya further denied that her association could have connived with Monomotapa to masquerade as Zimbabwe by wearing the Warriorsâ€™ first-choice yellow and green strip.
â€œYes the kit was not branded, but Monomotapa had no mandate whatsoever to use that kit,â€ she said. â€œHeads are certainly going to roll, and we are not mincing our words on that. They will be summoned to a disciplinary committee,â€ she said.
Monomotapa officials claimed they bought the kit from a local sportswear shop.
Malaysia used the matches to prepare for their match against English Premiership champions Manchester United.
BY ENOCK MUCHINJO