Situation gets dire for stranded teen Zim players in Dubai Archford Gutu

Grace Chingoma-Senior Sports Reporter

EIGHT teenage Zimbabwean footballers are in trouble with the United Arab Emirates immigration laws after they overstayed for more than 50 days in Dubai, accumulating daily fines and ballooning debts in Middle East hotels.

The players are part of the Archieford Gutu Boys Academy that travelled to Dubai on February 24 to feature in some matches with the promise of securing professional contracts. 

A total of 17 players were part of that delegation led out by the former Warriors midfielder and his wife Monalisa Dube. 

Nine have since returned and the remaining eight players that include academy captain Blessing Jonas, Kembo Moyana, Tino Zaranyika, Nigel Mandibatsira, Nyasha Mulongoti, Craig Mutakura, and Tinashe Junior Gutu are stranded in Dubai, together with Gutu and his family. 

The repatriation costs for the players are expected to amount to $2 500 per player. 

Yesterday, efforts had begun to get a reconciliation from the different hotels of how much they were owed by Gutu, who had booked the players in these hotels since February. The hotels have withheld the passports of the players until they settle the balances. 

Each day the players are in Dubai they are attracting a fine of 50 dirhams  (about USS$13,62) per day. 

The Zimbabwean delegation had a tourist single entry visa which is valid for 30 days. It is about 63 days since their visas expired and still counting.

So far, each player has accumulated a fine of about US$860. The players are yet to get the exact amounts of how much they owe the hotels they have been staying from the day they defaulted payments. 

Zimbabwean middle-distance runner Royal Mabika and Young Mighty Warriors conditioning coach Shingi Mugwini, who are based in the United Arab Emirates in their individual capacities, have stepped in to assist the players in securing decent rented accommodation. 

The players were staying in dangerous dungeons in downtown Deira and sometimes would go to Sharjah to look for accommodation. 

Some days the players would go to bed on empty stomachs. 

The two Zimbabweans on Sunday went to the Zimbabwean consulate in Abu Dhabi with two of the players who narrated their whole ordeal to the embassy officials. 

Yesterday, Gutu was summoned to the embassy where he gave his side of the story and informed the Zimbabwean officials that he has no money to settle the bills. 

The Zimbabwean embassy has since informed the players that they can only facilitate but are not in a position to assist the stranded young athletes financially. 

Some of the parents of the players told The Herald yesterday that they are now working with Mugwini to try and get the hotel balances and settle them so that their children are given back their passports. 

The parents are also running around to raise the required money for the immigration fines so that the players will settle the overstay fines as they exit the country. Without paying those fines the players cannot exit the United Arab Emirates. 

Gutu, who seems to be suffering from delusions of grandeur, was full of petty excuses and playing the blame game. He could not fully comprehend the mess he has created and the trauma he put the players through. The young boys were at times kicked out of hotels, sometimes at midnight, as hotel owners demanded payment upfront. 

He could not clearly explain why he let the players overstay for such a long period when it was during the Ramadan month and the local players were not even training.

According to the parents, Gutu has been making false promises using divide-and-rule strategies on the parents, assuring them that everything was in order. 

“I never asked any parent to give me money for any passport. All the parents with their kids here are very much aware that we are still here and finishing off what we came here for. I know a lot of people are not happy with this move because I have managed to do what most people have failed to do.

“Anyway people want to tarnish my image but my progress will speak for itself,” said Gutu. 

Gutu said his business partner defaulted on his promise to cater to some of the players in Dubai. But the former Dynamos midfielder could not answer why he would let the players overstay in Dubai when their visas had expired. Simple logic. 

Yesterday, ZIFA spokesperson Xolisani Gwesela said Gutu’s academy was neither registered nor did it seek clearance from ZIFA to travel outside the country on football business. 

“The Academy is not registered with us. It did not seek clearance to travel from us. We have read about the plight of the players in the media and we were not aware. 

“We call upon the law enforcement agents to act. We also encourage those operating illegal football academies to adhere to ZIFA statutes,” said Gwesela.

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