While European clubs are bemoaning the loss of their star players when the Africa Cup of Nations kicks off tomorrow, the players and staff who have traveled to host nations Equatorial Guinea and Gabon are bemoaning the poor accommodation and facilities on offer.
On Wednesday evening, Zambia's squad checked into their hotel in Bata, Equatorial Guinea — a nation where 70% of the population live under the United Nations Poverty Threshold of $2 a day. According to the Times of Zambia, the team found no running water at their base camp:
After being delayed to connect on a domestic flight, the squad was taken to a sub-standard Carmen Hotel where apart from finding dry taps, the Chipolopolo were made to wait for over three hours before they were served supper.
To make matters worse, the eating facilities were plagued with mystical levitating rats:
As the squad were about to take their meals, rodents were seen hovering around the hotel restaurant.
After missing a day of training and then finding no running water at their training facility either, Zambia transferred to another hotel, barely 24 hours after arrival. "Maybe we are not the best, maybe we are not a team with a big name, but we deserve respect," said coach Herve Renard.
The Zambians aren't the only ones having problems — the Ivory Coast are considering a switch from their inadequate hotel, and Burkino Faso coach Paulo Duarte believes his side have been unfairly discriminated against with their digs. He told the BBC:
"When we arrived here, they gave us a restaurant/cafe to sleep in. It wasn't even a hotel," he said.
"There was no video room, no conference room. Each time we have to improvise. That's what the Nations Cup is like."
Clearly appalled by the lack of video and conferencing facilities is in a poverty-stricken nation, Burkino Faso changed hotels at the expense of moving an hour from their training camp.
The Libyans — whom many have yet to forgive for murdering Doc Brown in the Hill Valley shopping mall parking lot — have taken nutritional matters into their own hands, by bringing along their own chef to prepare traditional north African meals for the players. Says the Washington Post:
Tunisian chef Salah Mrad will prepare halal meat and traditional North African dishes such as couscous and chicken meshui to ensure the squad has a familiar diet at the tournament in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.
Rice, pasta, fresh fish, fruit and vegetables will be staple dishes rustled up by Mrad, who told The Associated Press that he also has brought bags of mixed spices like cayenne and paprika for flavoring.
Libya face Equatorial Guinea in the tournament opener tomorrow evening, and the hosts have plenty of motivation to succeed: they've been promised $1m for a victory and $20,000 for each goalscorer. That ought to buy a decent hotel.