The Zimbabwe Warriors left Harare International Airport shortly before midnight on Friday the 7th of September 2010 aboard a chartered Air Zimbabwe Boeing 767, my favourite aircraft, with a group of just about a hundred supporters. The Head of Delegation was Zifa Vice President Ndumiso Gumede. It was a 6 1/2 hour flight, the Warriors touching down at 06:30 hours Zimbabwe time (04:30 hrs Liberian time.)
Early morning temperatures hit 24 degrees celsius and humidity was high. The national team had received a special dispensation for free entry visas, though there was still need for clarification on the travelling supporters, as they were not part of this association-to-association arrangement.
Liberian visa entry fee will set your budget back just US$70. A compromise was reached with immigration to allow the supporters entry without paying on condition they surrendered their passports whilst clarification on their visa was sought. So the supporters were then allowed into Liberia for free and proceeded on their 45 minute drive into Monrovia.
The team was booked into starless hotel Monrovia where there was neither electricity nor water. Liberia’s power is generally from generators, but strangely even the generator feeding the hotel with power was down. Nonetheless the players and technical team stressed up from the long flight reluctantly agreed to check in and went straight into a morning nap.
Training to shake-off jet-leg was set for 16:00 hrs, but then the bus to ferry the players to the stadium was nowhere to be found and after complaints from the HOD the bus arrived some 45 minutes late. The Samuel Doe Stadium is an immaculate pitch and its turf more or less measures to that of the National Sports Stadium. The Warriors gate-crushed a wedding taking place on the terraces. The powerful public address system churned out heavy music that literally made communication between players and coach impossible.
Nonetheless Coach Norman Mapeza went ahead with his training session and 30 minutes into the session, as if there was not enough head-ache already, it began to rain. To their credit the Liberians then switched on the flood lights and the Warriors were able to complete their rehearsals in good light at around 19:00 hrs.
Then fresh drama would occur. The team boarded its bus, and as it was about to leave it was mobbed by a group of about 50 Liberian supporters who seemed to be cheering the team yet the real agenda was to puncture the wheels of the bus. The Warriors alighted as they were promised alternative transport which came. This was a pick-up truck commuting at 20 to 30 minute intervals. Some players had to ride at the back, a dehumanizing experience that frustrated the players.
The captain bitterly complained about expectations being high when conditions were both hostile and treatment barbaric. The Zifa party decided to check out of the hotel at exactly 10:30 pm. The new accommodation was decent enough to be called a hotel and one wonders why the Liberian FA had not booked the warriors there to start with.
There was less drama on match day and on analysis the Warriors did a very good job. The match ended 1-1. We will further look at the match details in the next post and hope you keep posted. What do you think CAF should do with such inhuman treatment of national teams?