Zimbabwe’s Last World Cup Chance

THE Cosafa Senior Challenge Cup, whose draw was held in Harare last night, is Zimbabwe’s last chance to stake a claim for a 2010 World Cup role amid accusations that the regional tournament has been hijacked by “non-football people looking for relevance”.

Sports minister David Coltart this week allayed fears that Zimbabwe’s hopes of benefiting from the World Cup by inviting teams to camp in the country were getting impractical by each passing day.

Coltart revealed he would soon travel to France where he will engage officials from the French Football Federation.

“It’s still realistic,” Coltart said. “I recently met with the Mexican ambassador and he was very supportive. I will be going to France early October and I’ve asked to meet with French football authorities. There is a realistic chance. They understand that we have good facilities and the same climate and altitude — on the highveld ground, as Johannesburg and Pretoria.”

Coltart said the latest political development in the country in which the inclusive government appears under pressure will not throw spanners in the work.

“I think it’s important to realise that this (global political) agreement has always been flawed,” he said. “It has always been a problematic process. There are good days and bad days. Sometimes tension rise and you have to deal with it. We are working through it.

“All principals are working hard to deal with these issues. The issues must be addressed. It’s like in a family, sometimes there is tension but you broke a deal to end it.”

Zimbabwean authorities have dubbed the Cosafa competition “Zimbabwe’s own World Cup,” an unbefitting title for a regional tournament so insignificant in world football context.

“Well, it’s absolutely nothing like a World Cup, but the closest you get (to a World Cup) in Zimbabwe is 13 teams coming to the country. It’s a football spectacle. It’s an opportunity for Zimbabwe to watch high quality football which they will not otherwise be able to do unless they travel to South Africa next year,” Coltart said.

Zifa chief executive Henrietta Rushwaya said: “We are hoping the African teams will come. Fine, there is nothing wrong with being optimistic and hope for these big teams, but we have to go down to mother earth and look at other African teams.

“We are also hoping that our European-based players like Benjani will help us lure these teams by talking to their club mates. We have since communicated with the players to help us on that front.”

A leading football administrator, who spoke on condition of anonymity, has meanwhile attacked the organisation of the Cosafa competition.

“There is a lot of corruption,” said the official. “People are imposing themselves on football. There are too many outsiders running these things.

“Why is it that when it comes to football non-football people take a leading role? The sub-committees of the Cosafa are filled with people who have nothing to do in their fulltime jobs. What are they doing in football? Looking for relevance?”

Shingi Munyeza, Group CEO for African Sun Limited, said the country would have missed a great opportunity if it fails to capitalise on the World Cup.

“We are taking ourselves as the number two players,” Munyeza said. “By virtue of comparison to the rest of the region we are ready. But what you don’t want is to be ready in hotels and others when the rest of the things are not nice. There is goodwill from people, but there are still things we need to solve as citizens, government and civil society.”

Enock Muchinjo

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