~ Travel Arrangements Ahead Of AfCON Frustrated The Coach
~ Bonus Dispute Interfered With Team Training
~ Fashion Sakala Bailed Out Chipolopolo During Nine Hour Layover In Dubai
~ FAZ ExCo Reprimands General Secretary In the Absence of President Andrew Kamanga Over Poor Travel Arrangements To Côte d’Ivoire
~ FAZ Ordered Oversize Suits; Could Not Get Bags From Kamwala & Dropped The Plan.
Chipolopolo coach Avram Grant is contemplating a future without Zambia after what he describes as chaotic management of the national team, national team players & FAZ officials have confirmed.
Grant almost quit his post shortly before the Africa Cup of Nations kicked off in Ivory Coast last month.
AFCON TRAVEL ARRANGEMENTS
According to officials and players, Grant’s frustration with FAZ started while in camp in Lusaka when there were delays with the flight to take the team to Saudi Arabia.
Grant grew so frustrated that he suggested the international camp in Saudi Arabia be canceled as the delegation was kept in limbo for three days with a confirmed itinerary.
“For almost three days the team was being told it will travel at a certain time but the dates were being shifted,” one of the sources says.
Grant’s boiling point hit the highest when the team arrived in Dubai and were told they will have a nine hour layover at the airport before connecting to Jeddah.
While in Dubai, no comfortable arrangement was made for the team to either freshen up or loosen up while they awaited their connecting flight.
“We had to plead with the coach to exercise patience with us as the travel arrangements were done in consultation with the Ministry of Sports,” the source said.
THE FASHION SAKALA FACTOR
While the team was in Lusaka delaying to travel to Saudi Arabia, Fashion Sakala was released for national duty and started waiting for the delegation in Jeddah.
When a day passed and uncertainty on the team’s travel arrangements continued, Fashion Sakala opted to travel to Lusaka and went straight to his home. Airport records show that Fashion was in the country for less than 24 hours in January.
Unfortunately for Fashion, he was summoned back to join the team as they were to leave on the same day he arrived.
“Fashion arrived on the same day the team had finally been set to leave for Dubai and had to board the flight again with the team just few hours after arriving.
“When we got to Dubai, the players, like Avram, were upset to know they would have to wait at the airport for 9 hours to board the connecting flight to Jeddah,” the official explained.
What made it worse, according to the official, is when the delegation now learned that they will spend nine hours loitering at the airport because the ticket booking had no provision for hotel and meals.
“So at the airport in Dubai, Fashion took out his credit card and paid for the entire team’s rooms where we rested for a few hours before boarding the flight to Jeddah.”
…THE SAUDI ARABIA BUS RIDE
Further chaos was experienced upon arrival in Jeddah when the team was made to travel for three hours by bus to Taif where their camp was arranged.
The travel by bus from Jeddah to Taif did not go down well with Grant and at this point he was not talking to any FAZ official including delegation leader Jordan Maliti.
Chipolopolo spent about 10 days in Taif and connected back to Jeddah on a three hour road trip for the friendly against Cameroon.
Rather than engage FAZ officials again, Grant met Cameroonian legend Samuel Eto’o asking him to ‘teach’ his fellow Africans on how to professionally manage national team affairs.
“At the friendly against Cameroon, Grant and the delegation leaders had a chat with Samuel Eto’o and he advised them about how they were supposed to make proper arrangements for the team because Grant had complained to him,” the official added.
… BONUS ROW & THE TRAINING BOYCOTT
Chipolopolo were supposed to wear jackets on arrival in Ivory Coast. According to the officials, FAZ contracted a company called Dunavant.
The jackets were oversized in many cases but most important they were of poor quality and rendered unsuitable for use.
“If you observe, that is the reason we arrived in our playing kit because there was no money or time for a last minute option,” the official said.
Upon arrival for the tournament, the players demanded to be addressed by government and FAZ officials over their $5000 qualification bonus.
Senior players that included Patson Daka, Fashion and captain Lubambo Musonda were tasked to arrange a meeting with the officials.
By the time Zambia played Tanzania, the team had not been addressed and resolved to boycott training the following day.
On the day the team boycotted training, coach Grant switched the training program and took the players for a walk to the beach disguising that moment as a loosening up session.
Delegation leader Maliti was later forced to address the players and pleaded with them to complete the assignment as their issues on allowances was receiving active attention.
“As a result of that boycott, we lost two training sessions,” the source explained.
Sports minister Elvis Nkandu has not returned a press query or answered phone calls while a call to Fashion Sakala went unanswered.
… FAZ EXCO IN SAN PEDRO
While in Ivory Coast, the FAZ Executive Committee collaborated some of the events the team endured with the treatment they were accorded by the secretariat particulaly the General Secretary. The ExCo Members comprising mostly provincial chairmen and the women’s representative summoned FAZ vice-president Justin Mumba to a meeting. They wanted FAZ president Kamanga to attend the meeting but he was unavailable as he was based in a different city.
In the meeting, Reuben Kamanga, the general secretary, was present. They chastised Reuben for allegedly poor management at the secretariat and advised him to up his game.
“We told him he reports to ExCo and not one person. He needed to know that we are not happy with his management style,” the official said.
One of the upsetting episodes for ExCo members is when he put them on a bus from Abidjan to San Pedro while he decided to fly to the same place. The bus, according to members present, was organized by one of Kamanga’s supporters Jairos Siame who was in San Pedro as part of the security detail for Chipolopolo.
As things stand, Grant is hesitant to return as he left not talking to Reuben. His agent Nir Karin is trying to pacify the soured relationship and ensure the Israeli runs through his contact expiring in December 2024.