Senior Sports Reporter
AN embarrassing gaffe resulted in Warriors coach, Zdravko Logarusic, being barred from entering South Africa yesterday for the COSAFA Cup because he had not secured a visa for the trip.
Immigration officials at Oliver Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg barred Loga from entering the country because he did not have a valid visa.
All Croatian nationals need a visa for them to be allowed to enter South Africa.
Assistant coach, Lloyd Chitembwe, did not travel as he is blacklisted from entering the country for previous transgressions.
Dynamos coach, Tonderai Ndiraya is expected to take sole charge of the team, with help from goalkeepers’ coach Tembo Chuma, when they begin their campaign in Group C on Thursday.
ZIFA are now frantically pushing for Loga to get a visa to join the team in Port Elizabeth.
Apparently, the ZIFA office did not do background checks,before departure and the blunder came back to haunt the Warriors.
A simple check online with the South Africa Department of Home Affairs could have revealed that Croatia are one of the countries,whose citizens are not exempt from the stringent visa requirements.
“Visas are not issued at South African ports of entry and airline officials are obliged to insist on visas, before allowing passengers to board. If you arrive without a visa, immigration officials are obliged to put you onto a flight back to your home country,” reads their brochure.
According to SAvisas.com, ZIFA should have applied for Loga’s visa prior to travelling.
“Croats looking to travel to South Africa, for a temporary stay may apply for a South African visa.
‘‘A visa application must be submitted prior to travelling to South Africa.’’
However, ZIFA spokesperson, Xolisani Gwesela, claimed they were misled by local travel agents.
‘‘The association would, however, like to inform the nation that the head coach, Zdravko Logarusic, has been denied entry, upon arrival at Oliver Tambo International Airport, on the basis of him not holding a valid visa, for the host country, South Africa,’’ he said.
“This is despite the fact that we confirmed with visa and travel agencies in Zimbabwe, prior to departure, and we were assured that as long he possessed a valid Zimbabwean (work) permit, he would be allowed entry in South Africa.
“We were then dismayed, upon arrival, when we were told by Immigration officials that only service, and diplomatic holders from Croatia, were exempt from South African visa requirements.
“This has not been anticipated by the Association and the travel agent has availed a letter of apology after this debacle.
‘‘The Agent has also agreed to reimburse expenses resulting from this anomaly. Unfortunately, it is very clear that valuable training time has been lost, as a result of this gaffe. The Association is now saddled with ensuring that the coach gets a visa and proceed and join the team in Port Elizabeth in the shortest time possible.”
The Warriors are in Group C, which also features Mozambique, Namibia and guest nation Senegal.
“Meanwhile, assistant coach, Tonderai Ndiraya, will prepare the team in the absence of coach Lloyd Chitembwe, who was never pencilled to travel to South Africa, as a result of his non authorisation to travel to South Africa,’’ Gwesela said.
“We apologise to the nation for the inconvenience, however, the team remains in high spirits and ready to compete to everyone’s best abilities. We would like to assure the nation that the Association is making frantic efforts to remedy the situation.’’
Zimbabwe are the most successful team in the COSAFA Cup with six titles since the tournament was launched in 1997.
The Warriors are set to get their campaign underway on Thursday, when they meet Mozambique, in a midday kick-off.
Veteran attacking midfielder Ovidy Karuru has been named captain.
The Warriors will play Namibia on Sunday and then round off the group games against Senegal next Wednesday.
The Warriors squad has been hit by a number of withdrawals.
Evans Rusike, Kelvin Moyo, Godknows Murwira, Perfect Chikwende, Knox Mutizwa and Germany-based Jonah Fabisch were part of the initial training squad but will not feature in the tournament.
The technical team have placed Chicken Inn left-back Xolani Ndlovu, Emmanuel Mandiranga of Harare City and Dynamos teenage winger, Bill Antonio, on standby.
Goalkeepers: Washington Arubi (Marumo Gallants), Martin Mapisa (Zamora CF)
Defenders: Carlos Mavhurume (Caps United), Andrew Mbeba (Highlanders), Lennox Muchero (Yadah), MacClive Phiri (Sekhukhune United), Qadr Amini (Ngezi Platinum Stars), Malvin Mkolo (Bulawayo Chiefs), Jimmy Dzingai (Nkana)
Midfielders: Blessing Sarupinda (Caps United), Patrick Ben Musaka (Harare City), Tatenda Tavengwa (Harare City), Shadreck Nyahwa (Dynamos), Brian Banda (FC Platinum), King Nadolo (Dynamos), Nyasha Dube (Little Rock Rangers), Ovidy Karuru (Black Leopards), Richard Hachiro (Caps United)
Strikers: Farau Matare (Bulawayo Chiefs), Delic Murimba (Triangle United)