Zimbabwe’s national rugby team slept on the streets in Tunisia after being offered accommodation in a “disgusting” hotel before a World Cup qualifier match, a former sports minister said Tuesday.
Photographs showed players lying on a pavement wearing blankets and surrounded by their luggage ahead of the Africa Gold Cup match against Tunisia in Monastir on Saturday.
“Our national rugby team the Sables are being treated in the most appalling way in Tunisia,” former sports minister David Coltart posted on his Facebook account.
“They have been forced to sleep on the streets as the accommodation they were provided with is disgusting.”
As Zimbabwe sports fans expressed their shock over the pictures, the Rugby Africa governing body apologised for the team’s treatment.
“Rugby Africa and Tunisia Rugby Union would like to express their sincere apologies to the Sables team and management for this unfortunate situation,” it said in a statement.
“This does not reflect the standards of the Rugby Africa Gold Cup competition.”
Khaled Babbou, of Tunisia Rugby, denied the hotel standard was a tactic to win the game.
“Something went wrong for which I am sorry, but this was corrected this morning,” he said. “I can assure you that there was absolutely no intention to destabilise our opponents.”
Coltart called on Zimbabwean rugby authorities to assist the team, adding that players had been held up at customs for six hours as they did not have money to pay for visas.
The winner of the Africa Gold Cup tournament will qualify for the World Cup in Japan in 2019.
The Sables lost to Kenya 45-36 last weekend in Nairobi.
The Zimbabwe Rugby Union was not immediately available to comment.
UPDATE: Here’s the statement of Rugby Africa in full (courtesy: @APO_Source)