Zimbabwean protest was really just a cry for help
WHAT to make of this odd story about Zimbabwe sleeping rough for a night in Beja earlier this week?
Rather than accept the accommodation that had been provided by their Tunisian hosts ahead of yesterday’s Africa Cup game and World Cup qualifier, the Zimbabwe squad slept on the streets until the early morning when they were taken to another hotel.
As is the way of the modern world they also took photos and tweeted them to let everybody know about their decision and displeasure with the situation.
Zimbabwe – hot and bothered from a long journey from Nairobi via Harare – clearly weren’t impressed with the Hotel Aladino which admittedly receives a rather unflattering one and half stars on Tripadvisor and two and half stars in its 20 Google reviews.
Former Springbok prop Brian Mujati – now helping with the coaching – posted pictures of a gruesome looking broken toilet in what passed for a bathroom. After the briefest of team meetings the Sables decided they would kip al fresco until something more to their liking had been arranged.
Initially Tunisia apologised publically and profusely – they pride themselves on their hospitality – but on investigating they quickly changed their tune believing they were unfairly being painted as the bad guys and described Zimbabwe’s actions as ‘unethical’.
The Tunisia Union claim the rest of the hotel’s rooms were fine and that Zimbabwe had been in bad form and complaining from the moment they landed, declining at first to pay for their visas – they had been advised about this by email – which sparked a heated row and diplomatic incident.
You have to wonder in passing why Zimbabwe were being housed in Beja in the first place. Yesterday’s game was at the Stade Mustapha Ben Jannet in the coastal resort of Monastir nearly 230km away. Monastir boasts a wide range of excellent hotels, many of them under occupied or offering excellent rates since the down turn in the Tunisian tourist industry following the terrorist attack on Sousse beach in 2015.
I stand to be corrected but I suspect that Zimbabwe’s protest was, at least in part, a general anguished cry for help, and perhaps also a venting of extreme short-term disappointment.
They had opened up the tournament by drawing a home game against Morocco that they should have won and then lost away to Kenya in the last three minutes after the bravest of comebacks.
Their World Cup hopes and those of their high-profile coach Pieter de Villiers had all but disappeared, the latest window to grow the game in Zimbabwe slammed shut, and in such circumstances life on the road very quickly loses its glamour and romance.
They were looking for a decent hotel, serviceable wifi, a swimming pool, a cooling breeze off the Mediteranean and a couple of days of R&R to restore the spirits before concentrating on the game.
Instead what they were offered came up well short – a hot arid inland town and the most basic of accommodation. The players will have been gutted but it’s impossible to conceive that somebody in the Zimbabwe Union management team didn’t know exactly where they were heading.
Money, as usual, is probably at the root of this one way or another.The African Gold Cup is a grand sounding title and a very fine concept but, as I outlined on these pages only last week, there is almost no money in African rugby which features a number of extremely poor Federations and countries. African rugby below South Africa and possibly Namibia is really struggling in every possible respect.
Tunisia, thrashed 118-0 in their opening game to Namibia, are not serious contenders in this tournament and there is no real reason to suspect skullduggery on their part and an attempt to unduly disrupt Zimbabwe. A lack of finance is still the most probable cause and also human error in taking their eyes off the ball and not ensuring a hotel they have used before was up to scratch.
Everybody, on both sides seemed to be having a very bad day at the office but at least it made for fiery encounter yesterday which Tunisia won 18-14.
Rough treatment: Zimbabwe players sleep on the streets of Beja