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Zifa in Ndlovu/Mwaruwari fight cover-up

NDLOVU and Mwaruwari do their best to look at ease with each other just before kick off against Morocco Sunday
NDLOVU and Mwaruwari do their best to look at ease with each other just before kick off against Morocco Sunday

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By Nkanyiso Moyo

IT WAS the sort of window dressing that made those in the know cringe at the mere fact that they attempted it.

Peter Ndlovu and Benjani Mwaruwari were first out onto the hallowed turf of Rufaro Stadium -- the home of Zimbabwean football -- ahead of the Morocco game on Sunday.

For the Warriors faithful assembled to watch a salvage mission, the sight of Zimbabwe's most exciting footballing talent in history -- albeit on the decline -- striding the turf alongside a player who embodies the future drew the wildest of cheers.

Until recently, Mamelodi Sundowns striker Ndlovu -- who notched a century of caps for the Warriors in the 1-1 draw on Sunday -- was the national team skipper. He gave way to Mwaruwari, who signed for Portsmouth in England just over a year ago.

The two-men-show put up by Ndlovu and Mwaruwari before kick off on Sunday was a choreographed plot to lay the foundations for an impending whitewash by the Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) and the Warriors technical department.

Just three days prior, the two players had to be prized apart after a late night fist fight. Gilbert Mushangazhike was first at Room 105, Peter Ndlovu's room at Harare's Cresta Lodge.

Mushangazhike found the intruding Mwaruwari down, overpowered by Ndlovu. Bits of furniture had been destroyed, and according to one report, windows broken.

As reported here (read), Mwaruwari and Ndlovu's feud goes back four years. The two players, until their plastic show of unity before kick off on Sunday, rarely conversed between them.

A story is told how at the African Cup of Nations in Egypt last year, Ndlovu was greeted by Mwaruwari using his nickname 'Zongo' -- apparently given to him by Benjamin Nkonjera -- but Ndlovu simply ignored him and walked away.

The central issue to the fight between the two players is women. Peter Ndlovu slept with Mwaruwari's girlfriend, then later made advances towards his wife.

Adding his own chapter that turns the whole sordid affair into a thrilling soap, Mwaruwari retaliated by trying to hook up with Ndlovu's wife, South African singer Sharon Dee.

Details of the players' bed hopping would have passed for tabloid title tattle but for the fact that this fight involved two very senior players in the middle of preparations for a key match whose outcome had significant implications on the country's collective dream of making it to the African Cup of Nations next year.

In any other country, the two players would have been sent home. In fact, it is fair to argue that had it been Vusa Nyoni and Evans Gwekwerere involved in such a fight, Zifa would have shown little hesitation to send the players home.

But the players involved here are the all powerful figures of Peter Ndlovu and Benjani Mwaruwari who earn major bucks in foreign leagues. They could pay the Zifa and Warriors team's salaries for a whole year on a fraction of their earnings, if they chose.

Zifa chairman, Wellington Nyatanga, indicated on Monday that the two players would be disciplined. But there is a condition.

"We are awaiting a report from the technical team on the issue because I am also in the dark about the story, I am just hearing it from rumours," Nyatanga said.

"If it is proved to be true, then disciplinary action will be taken against the two players."

We know what that means. If you are still not sure, Charles Mhlauri's comments will put you in the picture.

The Warriors coach told New Zimbabwe.com Monday: "Confrontations between players are common. It is not the first or last of its kind. You will always have players arguing, it's not new."

Mhlauri revealed that he called both players after the bust-up for a meeting.

He added: "The players professed ignorance (of the fight). If you are a coach, what do you do? Try to prove they are lying? If the players shake hands, hug each other and tell you there is nothing, what do you do?

"I think this has been overblown to please certain sectors. You saw when the players went onto the pitch, they got a standing ovation. People were asking me to play Peter, and as a coach, that’s all I want."

For a while, Mhlauri has been grappling with a siege mentality. Instead of taking stern action against Mwaruwari and Ndlovu, he prefers to look the other way. In fact, while defending his lack of interest in the fight, he was keen to raise his own case as a victim.

He stated: "I think the loss to Malawi was improperly handled (by the media). People were given the impression that we had never lost to Malawi, that it was unusual and a tragedy.

"The reality is that we have only beaten Malawi just once in over 10 meetings since independence. You then ask the question 'what's different now to spark this outrage?', and you discover it's the coach that changed."

There you have it Mr Nyatanga. Your technical team which you pin so much hope on will hear no evil and see no evil.

It's a whitewash!


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