Mystery surrounds what happened on the day Botswana hosted Zimbabwe in the penultimate Afcon qualifiers at the Obed Itani Chilume Stadium on March 25th.
A source opines that Botswana stood a chance to collect three free points without kicking ball. The source continues that they were denied the chance by either naivety, honesty or sabotage by Botswana Football Association (BFA) officials.
Ahead of the clash, Zimbabwean media had quoted their team manager Wellington Mpandare saying the team would avoid staying in Botswana for long.
In the same article, Mpandare was quoted as saying: “Because of the Covid-19 situation, I think it would be ideal for us to leave on the eve of the match and use the results from tests done here for the game and come back. Please note that this is an option that I’ll present to the other guys and if they agree we will pursue it.”
If Zimbabwe had resorted to using the results from their country as per Mpandare’s alleged suggestion, they would have not been allowed to play as CAF regulations stipulate that a visiting team should test in the host country.
While it is yet to be known whether Zimbabwe team agreed to Mpandare’s idea or not, as he had suggested, the team arrived in Botswana on the eve of the match.
Sources say prior to the team arriving, Warriors management had some conversations with the BFA on the matter of testing.
During the said conversations, it is alleged that Zimbabwe officials had assured their counterparts in the BFA that they had made arrangements with their country’s embassy in Botswana to help them with tests once they arrive in the country.
It is however said that when the team’s advance party arrived in the country, they were not aware of the said arrangement.
The BFA officials are then alleged to have assumed the risk and took a decision to test the Zimbabwe team.
“Normally, what should have happened is that the BFA should have only given Zimbabwe the names of accredited labs and left them to make their own testing arrangements,” a source disclosed.
“By taking the responsibility to test Zimbabwe, the BFA took a risk as Zimbabwe would have refused to play should any of their players have tested negative,” the source says.
The source says it also meant if the results arrived too late and the game was called off, Botswana would have been blamed for ‘delaying the results to disadvantage Zimbabwe.’
“This is perhaps why the local officials were fighting hard to get the results for the game to be played. They could not call off the game as they were the ones delaying the results,” says the source.
It is alleged that when the Zimbabwe team arrived on the eve of the game, they refused to test at the airport as they said ‘the players were tired.’
“An agreement was then reached with Zimbabwe for the team to be tested at 0830hrs in the morning. When the medical officials arrived, the team was said to be eating breakfast and the tests were delayed and only done after 1000hrs,” the source says.
This led to a delay in Zimbabwe getting cleared to play as results from the tests arrived only 10 minutes before planned kickoff.
Unconfirmed reports say as the game delayed, the Zebras coach Adel Amrouche called out to BFA officials asking if the game should be cancelled or not.
It is still unknown whether or not the BFA officials asked the CAF Covid-19 medical compliance officer if the game should be cancelled and if they had, how the compliance officer reacted.
Those in the know say even if the coach’s wish reached the compliance officer, it would have been difficult for his wish to be granted as Botswana had already taken the risk.
“Even when the results were being delayed, the Zimbabwean officials were already implying sabotage from BFA even though they knew they had tested very late,” the source says.
Meanwhile, sources say some the association executives are awaiting the official reports from the match to look into the acts of its own personnel to see if there was any sabotage against the Zebras.
It is alleged that the association has also sent a query to CAF to determine whether the conduct of Zimbabwe on the day was proper.
Commenting on the matter, BFA Public Relations Officer (PRO) Tumo Mpatane says as far as he could tell, ‘there was no malice or sabotage from anyone against the Zebras.’
“As an association under FIFA, the BFA adheres to the core principle of fair play and any help extended to the Zimbabwean team was under such spirit,” Mpatane says.
The BFA PRO confirmed that BFA officials helped the Zimbabwe team but adds that ‘no BFA executive or employees had any ill will or sabotage against the Zebras.’
Despite the BFA PRO’s assertions, it seems the BFA NEC will be seeking answers from within and outside the NEC and employees of the association secretariat as to whether there was any sabotage.