16 November 2012

Zambia/South Africa: Mweene, Katongo Injured

Photo: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix
Chipolopolo celebrating (file photo).

ZAMBIA'S first choice goalkeeper, Kennedy Mweene and midfielder, Felix Katongo were on Wednesday injured in Johannesburg after the Chipolopolo team bus was stoned by some irate South African fans.

The Chipolopolo had earlier beaten Bafana Bafana 1-0 to win the Nelson Mandela Challenge at Soccer City Stadium courtesy of a Collins Mbesuma strike but some of the suspected Bafana Bafana fans could not stomach the loss.

The incident happened as the Zambian team was leaving Soccer City after their win over the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) hosts, South Africa in a friendly international.

Two boys, aged 12 and 13, were immediately arrested and detained at the Booysens Police Station and investigations in a case of malicious damage to property has been opened.

The security around the team was high level - that which the South African Police Service and Traffic Police provides to all visiting teams.

South African media reported that the incident comes as an embarrassment to South African officials, who conducted major security checks at the venue as part of preparations for the AFCON, which the country hosts from January 19 to February 10.

But upon arrival yesterday, the Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) down played the incident, claiming it was a minor and isolated incident by two young unpatriotic South Africans whom the association had forgiven and would not place charges against.

FAZ spokesperson Erick Mwanza said that the rogue boys were apprehended immediately after stoning the bus but decided to ask the police to release the boys due to the warm relations it enjoys with the South African Football Association (SAFA).

"Let me put it clear that this was one small incident, it has been blown out of proportion. These were just two young boys who are not genuine fans and were immediately apprehended but we have a rich relationship with SAFA and we have decided not to place any charges and asked the police to let the boys go," he said.

On the injuries to Mweene and Katongo, Mwanza described them as minor but when reminded that the FAZ, earlier on its facebook page described the incident as sad and that the Free State Stars goalkeeper needed stitches, he said the statement was misleading.

"The boys did throw a huge stone at the bus and it broke the glass that left Mweene and Felix in great pain but they were immediately treated right on the bus and they are both fine," he said.

"Very sad that the Zambian bus was stoned and Kennedy Mweene sustained a head injury. Has had stitches and is okay but the incident was shameful," FAZ tweeted yesterday.

SAFA president, Kirsten Nematandani has since apologised to the Zambia team for the unsavoury incident.

SAFA spokesperson, Dominic Chimhavi told the South Africa Press Association that: "I have spoken to our events director and they will be investigating."

And the Zambia High Commission in South Africa condemned the violence committed on the national soccer team saying "it condemned such acts of violence especially that they are against both the spirit in which the game was played and against the event which symbolises statesman Nelson Mandela, whose own image it epitomises."

First Secretary for Press at the Zambian High Commission Paston Chilemba said in a statement released yesterday that the High Commission in its engagement with authorities has been assured that the incident was regrettable and isolated, and that soccer fans should not fear coming to South Africa to support their heroes.

"We therefore wish to urge the Local Organising Committee to set up security especially that the country will in the next two months host the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations in order to avoid a recurrence of such incidences," he said.

Chilemba said the commission was, however, consoled by the quick action from the police and messages of sympathy have continued to pour from the South African citizenry following the incident.

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