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Our sporting heritage, our pride

THAT Zimbabwe has produced so many world-class athletes across a variety of sports is a source of much wonder in the world.

Sports Panorama Enock Muchinjo

Unbeknown to many, sport is so enshrined in Zimbabwe’s way of life, a matter of national pride and identity – in every respect a part of the fabric of Zimbabwean culture which defines our nation.

How many countries on this continent can boast of hosting three national teams at the same time, from separate parts of the world, and across different sporting disciplines?

While this has been the case in Zimbabwe in the last week or so – certainly a treat for many sports fans in this country – it does present a special dilemma to some, as I found last Saturday.

On a refreshingly cool afternoon in the middle of an unforgiving Zimbabwean summer where temperatures have risen to unbearable levels – I found myself in a rather good-natured but hotly-disputed contest with two great mates, centred around the sporting event to attend together on the said day.

One dug his heels in, insisting we head down to the Country Club for the second one-day match between the Zimbabwe women’s cricket team and touring Ireland.

Quite understandably so for this stocky fellow, an accountant by training, who last played cricket at Mbizi Primary School in Highfield alongside the likes of Prosper Utseya, Elton Chigumbura, Tinashe Ruswa, Forster Mutizwa, Taurai Muzarabani, Kudzi Taibu and Thomas Dangarembizi.

Then there was the other chap, not so sporty, but a dyed-in-the-wool Caps United fan with nostalgic memories of the Black brothers era, so preferred Zimbabwe’s Davis Cup clash with Turkey at Harare Sports Club in a Euro-Africa zone tie.
Call me unpatriotic, but I was keen on a non-international event, and I had my way.

Off then we were to Old Georgians Sports Club for the hosts’ Under-21 rugby league clash with Harare Sports Club, and thankfully none of us had any regrets.

I have always spoken about the untapped potential of rugby in this country, and the love the community – refreshingly so now a cross-section of Zimbabweans – has in their sport.

Former and current players, old and new administrators, families and friends all converged to gather the kind of crowd you would not see at any middle-status football match in this country, let alone a domestic cricket game.

And on the park, what an exhilarating game of rugby between two young sides of two proud Zimbabwean rugby clubs: teams stringing multiple phases, running some good lines, clean breaks as well as great handling and passing skills.

There can be little doubt that both teams are very well-coached, and it is particularly pleasing to note that Harare Sports Club have handed the Under-21 reins to the humble but competent Victor Pekane, an unsung hero of sport in this country whose work at the Mbare Rugby Academy is a beautiful tale of mentorship and changing lives.

20-19 it ended in favour of OGs, but the result that really mattered pertained to the events of the day – beautiful crowd, good rugby, camaraderie and, above all, signs of good health and vitality in Zimbabwean rugby.

And as we leave OGs, we hear that Zimbabwe has taken a 2-0 lead over Turkey at the tennis. The lady cricketers, disappointingly, have lost by 12 runs to the Irish to leave the series level one 1-1.

Meanwhile, in Mutare, our second-string men’s cricket team has already won its series against Kenya, and on the brink of whitewashing the East Africans.

And then the cherry on the top on Sunday, sealing the Davis Cup tie against Turkey.

Not a bad sporting weekend.

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