WITH time fast running out in Zimbabweâ€™s drive to benefit from neighbouring South Africaâ€™s hosting of the 2010 Football World Cup, the inclusive government has targeted international journalists as vehicles for the cause.
Tourism minister Walter Mzembi told IndependentSport this week that over 100 journalists who will be covering the Confederations Cup in South Africa in June will be invited over to Zimbabwe on the sidelines of the tournament.
The eight-team Confederations Cup is staged as a prelude to the World Cup, a year before the big showcase. It is contested by the winners of each of Fifaâ€™s six continental championships, along with the Fifa World Cup winner and host country.
Mzembi said his ministry is working closely with the World Trade Group to bring the scribes to Zimbabwe to explore the countryâ€™s holiday resorts in the hope they would, in turn, encourage fans from their countries to come to Zimbabwe before, during and after the World Cup.
Â â€œIn our second week in office we invited the World Tourism Group for us to see what our entry point will be on the Confederations Cup,â€ he said. â€œWe are in negotiations with two or three of the participating teams to come and play with our own national team as well as using our training facilities during the tournament. We are also going to bring into the country at least 100 journalists covering the tournament for a familarisation tour of the country.â€
Sports minister David Coltart however conceded that inviting teams to train in Zimbabwe wonâ€™t be an easy task. He reckoned that the offer would be met with different attitudes by the teams.
â€œThe World Cup qualifiers are still on and we donâ€™t know who will qualify and which teams will seriously consider our offer,â€ he said. â€œAnd then we have the problem of our stadia. Finance allowing, we need to refurbish Rufaro and Barbourfields Stadiums. The problem in the short-term is that we have no money to refurbish these stadiums to meet the standards required by some teams.â€
Coltart said the two ministries were in constant discussions ahead of the tournament.
â€œItâ€™s a coordinated effort between us and the Ministry of Tourism,â€ he said. â€œI think the Ministry of Tourismâ€™s objective to invite journalists is a good one. We need to bring journalists to start the re-branding exercise that the deputy prime minister spoke about. Itâ€™s a positive step with the World Cup in mind. We need to correct the perception people have of our nation.
â€œBut before we can do that, we need to start to address these governance issues that we have,â€ he said, adding: â€œIt’s more of a tourism drive than a sports drive. We need to get people into our hotels. We need to use our golf courses as a draw card to get golf-playing football fans who will come for both the Confederations Cup and the World Cup.â€
Brazil are the defending Confederations Cup champions. The Sambas will contest this yearâ€™s trophy in Pool A with hosts South Africa, World champions Italy and European champions Spain.
Pool B is made up of the United States, Egypt, Iraq and New Zealand.
BY ENOCK MUCHINJO/KUDZAI KUWAZA