ALGIERS – CAPS United were left suspecting foul play after their official African Champions League soccer balls vanished shortly after arriving in Algeria for tomorrow’s final Group B match against USM Alger (USMA).
The Green Machine arrived in Algiers mid-morning ahead of tomorrow’s must-win encounter which could see them qualify for the quarter-finals of the tournament.
However, their preparations for the crucial match were dented after the bag carrying their match balls was not found at Algiers International Airport.
The Confederation of African Football (Caf) provided at least 250 adidas match balls for all the teams participating in their competitions.
After discovering the loss, head of delegation Brian Chishanga and Makepekepe chief executive Cuthbert Chitima had to run around in the Algerian capital as they sought to find replacements.
The Green Machine players were scheduled to hold a training session last night but without the match balls it would be very complicated.
Due to the technology sportswear manufacturers are now putting into soccer balls, it is very imperative that players get to know how the balls behave. Continued on P23
Chishanga, who by the time of going to print had not returned from the shopping trip, launched a complaint with the airline but did not rule out foul play from USMA.
“I think we were welcomed well here by our Zimbabwean ambassador as well as our opponents for Sunday’s match,” Chishanga said.
“But on an embarrassing note, we had one of our bags missing which happens to have soccer balls. I checked seven items in Harare all in my name since I was the one with a group visa. But when we arrived at the airport we got only six.
“I suspect it could be something to do with airport personnel. We launched a complaint to the airline and they assured us that they will check with Rome. If it was left in Rome, the airline assured us that we will get it by midnight (last night) when the next plane arrives.
“But if it is not the case then I suspect there must be something sinister because seriously, why soccer balls in particular and not other items?”
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe ambassador to Algeria George Mandaza lauded the reception given to the Green Machine adding that his embassy has mobilised supporters to come and cheer on the team as they bid to qualify for the quarterfinals of the Champions League.
“I think the hosts pulled out all the stops. Honestly, I think they have done more than their duty in welcoming the team,” Mandaza said.
“What we have done is that we have mobilised many of our students who are studying this side to come and cheer up the team.
“There are quite a number of Zimbabwean students who are studying here and they will come to push the boys for a positive result.”
Mandaza was, however, quick to remind Makepekepe of the difficult task that lies ahead.
“This team (USMA) has got massive support and they come in full force. So, CAPS United really need to work hard if they are to go through.
“Usually when it’s one the top three teams here they bury the differences and come to cheer whoever will be playing. So CAPS United should expect a full house on Sunday.”