CAPE TOWN – Players from African Nations Cup debutants Guinea Bissau and fellow finalists Zimbabwe have been involved in disputes over money with their federations just days before they are due to head to the tournament in Gabon.
Guinea Bissau players met the country’s president Jose Mario Vaz in an effort to solve their impasse after bonus money they were promised for qualifying was not paid, the Portuguese news agency Lusa reported on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe’s players stood up the country’s acting president Emmerson Mnangagwa by refusing to attend a send-off dinner in a bid to get a higher tournament appearance fee.
The dinner went ahead on Friday without the squad and agreement has since been reached to share the proceeds from the tournament between the players and Zimbabwe’s football association, local media reported on Sunday.
Three Guinea Bissau players, representing the team from the former Portuguese colony, had talks with President Vaz though it was not clear if they had received any of the promised payments.
Guinea Bissau’s government had also promised to pay for tournament preparations but the team have not played any warm-up friendlies or travelled outside the country for a promised training camp.
The squad’s departure on Wednesday for Gabon, where they are due to play in the Nations Cup opening game against the hosts in Libreville on Saturday, was also in doubt, Lusa reported.
The biennial Nations Cup involves 16 countries playing at four venues across Gabon, the oil-rich central African country.
Guinea Bissau is one of the world’s poorest countries and the team have regularly been embroiled in disputes over money.
Zimbabwean soccer is also beset by financial issues with the country’s football association, Zifa, millions of dollars in arrears and often needing benefactors to bail it out.
“We are not asking for much, we know what we want as a team and we submitted our proposal long back but no-one listened to us,” Zimbabwe captain Willard Katsande told local radio.
Broken promises over payments to players is a feature of the game in Africa and national teams have a history of staging strikes and skipping commitments before major tournaments in an effort to get more money from their local soccer associations.
Before the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, Cameroon players delayed the departure of their charter flight to the tournament as they haggled over money, while Ghana players refused to train before their last group game, forcing the government to send a charter jet to the finals with cash to appease the players.