IMAGINE Arsenal turning up for a friendly against Zimbabwe wearing the England kit?
Unimaginable of course!
But Zimbabwean soccer fans will be outraged today as New Zimbabwe.com reveals the deception that saw Premier Soccer League champions Monomotapa don the national team colours and play in two “international” friendly matches against Malaysia this week.
Monomotapa lost 4-0 on Sunday and 1-0 on Tuesday to the Malaysians who are ranked 157th in the world.
Malaysian football authorities and the media were under the impression the team led onto the pitch by Rodwell Dhlakama was a national select side. The Malaysian FA showed local journalists letters from ZIFA stating that they were sending a national team.
Following Sunday’s defeat, Dhlakama insisted he was the national team coach, said local journalist Haresh Deol of the Malay Mail.
And on Tuesday, Dhlakama’s assistant Taurayo Mangwiro, keeping up the deception, addressed local journalists as if he were a member of the Warriors’ technical staff.
He said: “Since we have failed to qualify for the 2010 World Cup, we will now gather again and train hard for our coming international (friendly) matches."
ZIFA officials have refused to go on the record over the champions’ trip – with the top brass holding off-the-record briefings with journalists to deny giving Monomotapa the green light.
“Their participation in those matches depended on them getting clearance from the PSL, which they insist they sought but got no reply. There is clearly a reason to believe Monomotapa have done this without PSL and therefore ZIFA permission,” said one ZIFA official, threatening disciplinary action against the club.
But ZIFA’s culpability in the fiasco was magnified last night after New Zimbabwe.com obtained exclusive pictures showing Monomotapa in Warriors colours – complete with the national emblem.
And Malaysians were also demanding answers.
In an editorial, the Malay Mail asked: “Don’t they check? Are we such a gullible nation that we assume everything told to us is the absolute truth?”
The paper said the local FA was “proving incompetent as they can't even tell the difference between a national champion club and a national team.”
It declared: “We have a Zimbabwean football club team masquerading as the national team. The coach of Monomotapa - Rodewell Dhlakama - even went on record to claim his was the national team. Checks with the media in Zimbabwe and other sources have proven otherwise.
“But never mind all that. People will claim a lot of things. Isn't the onus on us - the FA of Malaysia - to check the authenticity of the claims? Or was FAM party to this web of deceit?”
Local media in Malaysia reported the two meetings between the fake Warriors and the hosts as an "A" international match.
The Malaysian FA insists it only paid for Monomotapa’s hospitality and would not be footing the cost of travel. The FAM also insists it will not be paying Monomotapa an appearance fee.
But that will do little to appease Malaysians, with the Malay Mail insisting FAM has “provided a two-bit club side from Zimbabwe with a paid holiday.”