Independent Sports View – With Darlington Majonga
THERE are many times we are tempted to believe politics should have nothing to do with sport and vice-versa, but the spectre of Pre
sident Robert Mugabe’s hegemony might keep haunting Zimbabwean sport until “donkeys grow horns”.
It’s a reality we can’t escape just like we can’t mask Zimbabwe’s myriad scourges epitomised by the scarcity of virtually everything but HIV and Aids, poverty and lies like the Tony Blair and George Bush-induced drought in southern Africa.
The limelight is on destitute Zimbabwe for all the wrong reasons, and sport can’t escape the political brawls but might as well be thrown into the fire to turn the heat on Mugabe, who without any misgiving has guaranteed our wretchedness.
It’s against such a disquieting backdrop that Zimbabwe’s bid committee for the 2010 African Nations Cup, to be announced tomorrow, has to brace itself for a bruising battle if the finals are to come to Harare.
Like it or not, the country’s political and economic setbacks are likely to have more say in Zimbabwe’s bid to host Africa’s prestigious soccer showcase than Zifa’s inherent incompetence.
One can’t help feeling sorry for Cuthbert Dube and whoever will be in the bid team when you consider how they will have to cajole Africa into believing Zimbabwe will be the best country to host the Nations Cup in 2010.
In the first place, whoever thought Zimbabwe would be ideal to host the finals in 2010 apparently had vision. That’s the same year our neighbours South Africa will be host to the biggest one – the World Cup finals.
The 2010 Nations Cup finals are more important to us than they were in 2000, when they were whisked away from under our noses at the instigation of francophone adversaries more out of selfishness than Zimbabwe’s incapability to host the tournament.
In 2010 Zimbabwe is strategically positioned to host the continental showpiece that would be a precursor to the World Cup across the Limpopo. With conditions in Zimbabwe similar to those in South Africa, there’s no doubt most African countries would love to come here in 2010.
There are innumerable spin-offs for Zimbabwe from the Nations Cup as well as the World Cup. Jobs will be created for many, hotels will be full to capacity and business will surely feed off the finals.
It’s a chance to show the world we are capable of hosting big teams as there’s no doubt Brazil, Argentina or France might want to camp here before the World Cup.
It’s really an opportunity for Zimbabwe to make over its image, if not a chance to open up avenues for the country’s soccer players to professional overseas leagues.
But we have to convince Africa that we will have enough fuel to transport footballers, officials and fans, let alone reliable transport.
Zimbabwe will have to convince Africa that there is no humanitarian crisis bedevilling the country since the government arbitrarily saw it fit to “clean-up” the country by demolishing “illegal” shelters.
Hopefully the bid team will have to ensure the continent believes this time round we can get a guarantee from the government to bankroll the hosting.
Everyone has to believe talk of facilities such as stadiums being renovated can become reality.
The nitty-gritties are just too many that the bid committee will have to deal with, but the greatest challenge will be to disabuse Africa and the world of the belief that Zimbabwe can’t organise a football tournament.
We wish the Zimbabwe African Nations Cup bid committee all the best, but they have to remember the task at hand is more than winning over a Confederation of African Football that is given to falling for anything francophone.
All said, it will be regrettable if Zimbabwe were to be judged on President Mugabe’s record, no matter how inescapable that reality is.
Regardless of a super campaign dossier the committee might come up with,
they enter the 2010 race saddled heavily with Mugabe’s reputation that the field will be uneven.
Hopefully no one will see it fit to impose sporting sanctions on Zimbabwe.
Talking of sanctions, it’s barely a month since I solicited a scatological backlash from those with parochial agendas after insinuating that it would be futile for New Zealand’s cricket side to snub a tour of Zimbabwe over Mugabe’s human rights record.
Honestly, such a boycott would not even lift the spirits of Kuuraya Munhu or Ndozvamaida Hameno, swept away by Murambatsvina and dumped at Caledonia Farm – assuming they care about sport at a time their brains have been numbed by the “tsunami” unleashed on them by their own government.
Let me again hammer the point home right away, lest we get mired in illusions about the man himself: if you think New Zealand’s snub of Zimbabwe will dent Mugabe’s conscience, you might as well believe you are not your mother’s son or daughter.
It’s the simple thing dippy Henry Olonga cannot twig. Yes, we have plumbed the depths of despair here, Henure, but maybe your dreadlocks have overgrown to cover your eyes so you can’t see who the man in charge is.
You better rot in mediocrity than advocate to have your former playmates – Tatenda Taibu, Heath Streak, Hamilton Masakadza and Andy Blignaut – placed as collateral or used as ransom in a political war.
There are better solutions to our crisis and every right-thinking Zimbabwean knows what needs to be done. The unfortunate thing about sanctions is that they end up hurting those they are supposed to protect.
Anyway, it’s a big relief the Black Caps have committed themselves to touring Zimbabwe. At least, in the midst of our suffering, some of us will enjoy the game of cricket just the way others are enjoying other forms of entertainment – unless there won’t be any more new babies as a way of protest.