THE Mighty Warriors arrived in Harare with the Olympics fanfare and glamour they had become accustomed to in Brazil a distant memory, as they found a rundown bus from a local school and an insulting allowance of $5 each was all the nation could offer.BY HENRY MHARA
About 500 fans, who had gathered at the airport to give the team a heroes’ welcome, expressed displeasure at the state of the bus that had been arranged for their heroines.
They demanded that a luxury coach be swapped with the small and rundown bus that had been provided to the Olympics heroines.
The tired and gloomy girls, whose grand arrival later turned to be an embarrassment, as the Zimbabwe Olympic Committee (ZOC) had shoddily arranged the logistics for the team’s return, eventually squashed into the rundown bus.
A player, who spoke to NewsDaySport said a ZOC official identified as Chiedza, offered them $5 for transport to go to their respective homes.
“She offered to give $5 to players who stay in Harare and $15 to those from outside Harare to use for transport, but we refused because we were expecting to get our allowances,” the player, who refused to be named, said.
“We were told that we would get at least $1 000 each for our participation at the Olympics, but only to be offered this. We thought it was an insult.”
ZOC had arranged that the players be dropped off in town, where they were supposed to get transport to their respective destinations.
However, the supporters, who were in tow, could not have their heroines dumped in town. They instead forced the driver to take the team to a lodge in Kamfinsa.
Alvin “Aluvha” Zhakata, an ardent national team supporter, who was part of the crowd that welcomed the team, said: “This is the most unpatriotic act from our sports leaders. The girls were tired and hungry, yet that was the best arrangement ZOC had for the team. It was shocking that they wanted the players dropped in town to find their way home.”
At the lodge, a Good Samaritan offered to buy the team some food, but they refused, demanding to be paid what was due to them.
But on realising that nothing was coming their way, the players dispersed and boarded kombis into town.
“They were also offering us to stay in a hotel in town, but we also refused, and asked them to give us the money they wanted to use in booking the hotel. We hear ZOC was given money for us by the International Olympic Committee and we suspect that they want to use it themselves,” another player said.
Away from the drama, the Mighty Warriors were given a heroes’ welcome, as they arrived back home after their Olympics exit.
The team lost all their three group matches, crashing out in the initial stage, but earned the world’s respect for their determination in the matches despite the odds being heavily staked against them.
A group of about 500 supporters crammed the airport arrivals lounge singing and dancing.
“I’m humbled to get such a reception. We did not do well, but the fact that a number of people are welcoming us shows that they are proud of the effort that was put by the girls,” Mighty Warriors coach, Shadreck Mlauzi said.
“It was not going to be easy, but as a nation, we should admit that we are still finding our feet in the world of football in major tournaments. There are a number of lessons we learnt there and the most important one is preparation. Our talent identification should also be revamped, there was a vast difference in the physical attributes of our players compared to the teams that we were playing.
“We got the respect of major teams. They appreciated the tactical framework of the team. The effort that was put by the players in each and every game, the resilience, and the determination displayed by the players even when we were losing is something that we can be proud of and build from.”