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Last Updated: Saturday, 24 September 2005, 15:02 GMT 16:02 UK
Zimbabwean players on the run
Rafik Khan
Zifa boss Khan is waiting for reports before commenting on the matter

Eight Zimbabwean football players and two officials have failed to return to Zimbabwe after a trip to Britain, the state-run Herald newspaper reported on Saturday.

Six players from the Harare-based CAPS United and two from Highlanders, based in Bulawayo, failed to catch a flight from London while two officials also remained behind.

The players had been in England to play a friendly match against each other in Bradford on 17 September, which Highlanders won 1-0.

"Zimbabwean football is counting the cost after eight players deserted . . . and remained behind in England in one of the biggest crises to hit the country's battered national sporting discipline," the paper said.

The Herald named the missing CAPS United players as vice-captain Artwell Mabhiza, Silent Katumba, David Sengu, Raymond Undi, Elton Chimedza and Tichaona Nyenda.

Premier League title-holders CAPS are currently nine points clear at the top of the Zimbabwean league, with eleven matches left to play this season.

Highlander players, reserve goalkeeper Luckson Mutanga and defender Dalisizwe Dhlamini have also disappeared, the paper said, adding that CAPS official Valentine Gwaze "is believed to have deserted the club."

"Gwaze did not even turn up at Heathrow Airport for the team's flight back home on Thursday night while while a second official, CAPS United general manager Joe Makuvire joined the queue but then disappeared into the massive airport complex," it said.

The two Highlander players, Mutanga and Dhlamini, "only checked in their luggage but disappeared into the crowd," the Herald said.

"This caused a delay in the British Airways flight back home as flight attendants were forced to pull their luggage from the plane," it said.

CAPS United boss Twine Phiri said however he instructed Makuvire "at the last minute to stay behind and resolve the issue of the players that did not report for the flight back home."

"I left my general manager behind so I will be able to get an update a little later," Phiri said.

Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) president Rafik Khan said he could not yet comment as he was "waiting for reports from the delegation that went with the team."

"Maybe the guys remained behind because they wanted to stay in Britain, but I do not know the reason," Khan said.

"They have six months visas... This is a lesson we have learnt, we need to be more careful with youngsters," he said.

Zimbabwe has in recent years seen at least four leading football players leave the country for Britain in the face of severe criticism from local authorities.



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