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AFCON 2021: A Zimbabwean in distress and stuck in Cameroon

Alvin Zhakata
AFCON 2021: A Zimbabwean in distress and stuck in Cameroon

A Zimbabwean sports consultant, Alvin Zhakata came to Cameroon for the 2021 African Cup of Nations in January. But the delegation with which he went to Cameroon left without him. Since then, the 35-year-old has been living in the Cameroonian capital.

 

"I'm exhausted. I'm getting depressed. God only knows if I will return to my country alive". On a chair behind the Arenah Hotel in Yaoundé where he was expelled for "unpaid bills", Alvin Zhakata clutches his rosary. For several days now, this Zimbabwean national has been squatting at the back of this establishment located in the Olembe district, not far from the stadium that hosted the opening and final of the 2021 African Cup of Nations in Cameroon. "The situation is very difficult. I feel my strength failing me. I pray every day to be able to go home," he says, as he clears his throat tight.

Between two sentences, the 35-year-old man pauses for a moment of silence, his eyes empty and his face downcast. He has been struggling to eat well for days. With time, he has learned to endure. Despite his precarious health: he has breathing problems. According to his medical booklet, Alvin Zhakata has a lung disease that has not been clearly indicated. He is afraid that he will never see his family again. The slender man sleeps under the stars in the cold. And his only companions are mosquitoes.

In the beginning was the 2021 African Cup of Nations
Alvin Zhakata is a freelance sports consultant from Zimbabwe. He arrived in Cameroon with a delegation from his country for the 2021 African Cup of Nations. The group led by the Secretary General of the Zimbabwean Ministry of Sports, Arts and Recreation took up residence at the Arenah Hotel in Yaounde on January 15. Zimbabwe who were in group B in Bafoussam were to play their last match at the Ahmadou Ahidjo Stadium in Yaounde three days later. Despite the 2-1 victory over Guinea, the Warriors were eliminated in the first round. The Zimbabwean delegation left Cameroon on 22 January after paying all their hotel bills. But Alvin Zhakata chosed to stay on for the final scheduled for 6 February.

Penalties, unpaid bills...
But on 27 January, the sports consultant "disappeared from the hotel, leaving his luggage in the room. After investigations, he was spotted at the Yaounde Emergency Centre," said an employee of the Arenah Hotel. Unable to pay his hospital bills, the president of the Cameroon Football Federation (Fécafoot) was called for help. Samuel Eto'o intervened and even agreed to pay for his plane ticket," says our source. Mr Zhakata was then due to leave Cameroon on 2 February. But once at the airport, the sauthorities said that a penalty of 254,000 CFA francs (€387) had to be paid first. As he did not have the funds, Mr Zhakata will return to the hotel.

Since then, the bills for accommodation and food have been piling up. Alvin Zhakata has a bill of just over one million (1,500 euros) at the Arenah Hotel. He also has to pay new penalties for his plane ticket. That is 310,000 CFA francs (472 euros). His family, whom he regularly contacts via WhatsApp, has not yet been able to collect the necessary funds. Given that Zimbabwe has no diplomatic representation in Cameroon, all requests to the Zimbabwean Ministry of Sports have gone unanswered. Alvin Zhakata is alone in Yaounde to face his fate.

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