For three hours yesterday afternoon, Sudanese side Al Hilal was stranded at Protea Ryalls as the hotel’s management demanded upfront payment amounting to K5 million before they could be checked in ahead of Sunday’s CAF Champions League first-round second leg tie against Big Bullets.
Not even Youth and Sports Ministry principal secretary Justin Saidi’s intervention earlier in the morning could help matters as the hotel stuck to its guns.
The visiting team was only allowed to check in after its president Mahdi Mohamed Khalil Elbahar surrendered an equivalent of the amount in US dollars as collateral, on the understanding that it would be redeemed upon payment by their hosts Bullets.
“I am very angry with Bullets. We signed an agreement that we should host them in Khartoum on the understanding that they would do the same here, but look what is happening?
“The principal secretary came here in the morning alongside their chairperson [Sadik Malinga] and tried to negotiate that we be allowed to check in as they tried to source the money, but it couldn’t work, that is when I realised that we were in trouble,” said Elbahar while shaking his head in disbelief.
He claimed that he even tried to seek former chairperson Kondi Msungama’s help who told him that there was nothing he could do as he was no longer leader of the team having been forced to resign.
“This is very disappointing to say the least and we are going to report them to CAF right away because they are in breach of an agreement.
“Look here, there is no one from the team here, is that fair? Tell me, is that how you treat visitors in your country?” queried the Al Hilal official in an interview.
The manager on duty at the hotel refused to comment on the issue and referred The Nation to Bullets.
When contacted for comment, Malinga promised to come back to this reporter as he was busy hunting for money to pay the hotel.
“I know what you want to ask me Garry. In fact, I am running up and down trying to sort out the same issue. Once I am through, I will definitely get back to you,” he said.
Saidi also promised to call back as he was tied up elsewhere.
However, Msungama confirmed having been asked to help Al Hilal get hold of Bullets officials.
“I already briefed Al Hilal about my situation, however on humanitarian grounds I rushed there to see if I could help and lucky enough, the PS and the acting chairperson [Malinga] appeared and I was there as an observer when they were trying to negotiate.
“I could not do anything because my hands were tied,” said Msungama.
Asked if he was ready to take the blame for the situation as he was the one who committed to hosting them at a first-class hotel, Msungama said: “My brother, I would have taken responsibility if I were still at the helm of the team, but I was kicked out. However, that does not mean I am not concerned about the situation. In fact, as I am talking to you now, I am at the hotel,” said Msungama.