HomeLocalHow tennis star plunged into Egypt chaos

How tennis star plunged into Egypt chaos

Prior to his departure on Wednesday last week for the ITF Futures 1 Tournament, his mother had told him not to go because of the unrest in the Arab country.


Egyptians have been protesting on the streets for days demanding the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak. Hundreds of people have died following violent clashes between rival camps.

The ITF tournament, where Ndlela was Zimbabwe’s sole representative, had to be cancelled at the last minute because of the violence.

Had the 25-year-old listened to his mother, he would not have spent two nights sleeping on a bench with no blankets at the airport giving his parents sleepless nights.

However, as stubborn as men will always be coupled with a deep-seated passion for tennis, Mlandeli along with his father Daniel, a prominent economist, simply laughed off his mother’s fears.

“Mla”, as his father calls him, had to encounter first signs of the chaos that now defines the North African country on his arrival at Cairo International Airport last Thursday morning as he could not locate his luggage because of the confusion.

He says memories of soldiers barricading roads, sleepless nights at the airport and having to share little food with fellow travellers will always linger in his mind.

“It was at Cairo Airport that I discovered that my luggage was missing.

“Everything was just chaotic. I had to buy some new clothes and sporting equipment as I had enough cash on me,” he said.

“Violence was already starting, but there was too much security at the airport and Egypt-Tennis Federation (ETF) immediately took us to the match venue in Giza where the tournament was to begin on Saturday.

“Security was tight at the venue and the hotel owner assured us that we would be safe.

“He also asked for more security personnel. On Sunday violence had escalated and the tournament was cancelled.

“Everyone was now afraid as internet and phones were not working.

“I could not communicate with my parents, but I managed to get in touch with a family friend,” he said.

“On Monday all the players were taken back to Cairo Airport to go back to their respective countries,” he said.

The left hander, who studied for a Business and Sports Management degree at Concodia University in the United States, says on arrival at the airport he received a cocktail of good and bad news.

“It is a 20-minute journey to the airport from the games village, but it took us three hours to get there as there were many soldiers on the streets.
“At the airport there were thousands of stranded passengers trying to get out of Egypt.

“It was really a stampede to get a plane as most airlines had cancelled their flights.

“I spent two days without bathing and we were nearly sleeping over each other at the benches without blankets.

“I kept my nerves and continued looking for alternative planes to get me out of Egypt.

“That is when I stumbled upon a Kenyan who advised me to use Emirates Airlines, which was to take me to Johannesburg via Dubai.

“I paid US$750 for the ticket to Dubai which connected me to South Africa,” he said, adding that most of the Egyptians he talked to at the airport were in support of the unrests describing them as a revolution.

“In Dubai, I managed to get in touch with one of my brothers who is in the United Kingdom who then let my parents know that I was safe.
“I arrived yesterday (last Thursday) at 9pm,” he said.

The smile that was on Mla’s mother, Thando, summed up the family’s mood as she was relieved to have her son back.

“He is my last born son. The other two boys are both in the United Kingdom and he is the one I stay with.

“Those two weeks were the most stressful period for the family. I am glad that my son is back home alive,” she said.

For Mlandeli, it is back to training as he battles to put this horrific experience behind him and concentrate on forthcoming ITF Futures Tours in Asia in three weeks’ time.

Government yesterday said it would evacuate Zimbabwean nationals from Egypt fearing the violence could escalate.

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