Zambia pardons errant footballers

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The Official Announcement of the National Tour of the Africa Cup of Nations Trophy in Zambia

The three footballers who were reported to have missed the national friendly in deference for other interests have been pardoned by the Zambian government. The players are Rainford Kalaba, Stoppila Sunzu and Nathan Sinkala.

The Zambia government held onto their passports when it was discovered that they failed to travel to Beijing from Zambia for an international friendly against Brazil in China last week. It alleged that they had secretly returned to their club, TP Mazembe, in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

However, when the situation was reviewed and it was found that the allegation was not correct, Kalaba and Sunzu had their documents returned to them, while Sinkala would collect his from the immigration offices in Ndola, Zambia.

Rainford Kalaba was reported to have said; “I am very glad that everything has gone well… I just want to get back to work”

Zambia’s home affairs minister Edgar Lungu, whose ministry overseas the department of immigration, was also reported to have stated that: “We have pardoned them.

“Our officers have been instructed to allow them to get back to their club and continue with their careers. There won’t be any further questioning because the matter is closed.

“In future, we will engage their club and the players’ managers in Zambia to avoid a recurrence of what happened.”

The footballers were reported to have explained that nothing wrong had been done by them when the Zambian authorities issued warrants for their arrest last week while the three were turned back at the border as they attempted to return to their club last Friday.

The footballers had had to endure a four-hour long interrogation on Friday evening and the questioning continued for a similar amount of time on Monday before they were asked to return on Wednesday.

After Lungu’s intervention ion Tuesday, a relieved Kalaba reportedly told told BBC Sport: “I am very glad that everything has gone well. I don’t want to say much. I just want to get back to work.”

He added that he did not want to discuss his future with the national team.

Sunzu was also reluctant to talk about his future with Zambia, saying only: “I am happy that we are free at last. I will think about my international career when I get back to Congo.”

Derrick Mulenga, one of the two lawyers that represented the trio, said the immigration officials are satisfied the players never went back to Congo, hence the release of their passports.

TP Mazembe president Moise Katumbi paid tribute to the Zambian home affairs minister for intervening in the matter days after sports minister Chishimba Kambwili labelled the players unpatriotic.

“I am delighted this matter has come to and end and we look forward to welcoming the players,” said Katumbi said.

Because of their interrogation in Zambia, the three players last weekend missed TP Mazembe’s 1-0 win in their Confederation Cup semi-final second leg against Stade Malien of Mali – a victory that saw them complete a 3-1 aggregate victory.

The Congo giants will now be pleased their trio will return for the two-legged final against CS Sfaxien next month.