SPORT is deeply ingrained in our national psyche, and we are one of the few nations on the African continent to be passionate about more than just one or two chief sports.
By Enock Muchinjo
It is something of which we are proud, and indeed at the beginning of the year Zimbabwean sport made the world sit up and notice with two events of great intent.
First, in February, was the appointment of Peter de Villiers as the Zimbabwe national rugby team coach, courting rare world media focus on a sport which has horribly failed to capitalise on its early profile as the only African country to grace the first-ever Rugby World Cup nearly three decades ago.
It goes without saying that de Villiers’ first year in charge of the Sables has been a tumultuous one. A long list of critics, yours truly included, have come up with less-than-flattering assessments of the former Springbok coach. The appointment of a tri-nations winner, conqueror of the British and Irish Lions and the last Bok coach to beat the mighty All Blacks in their backyard, notwithstanding, was a major talking point and Zimbabwe revelled in it.
Same as a month later when Zimbabwe played host to the biggest sporting event ever seen in this country, the Cricket World Cup Qualifiers — a tournament whose glamour and magnetism was marred by the host’s devastating failure to qualify.
Both cricket and rugby’s World Cups come around next year. Imagine, for a moment, the benefits gained had Zimbabwe been represented at both. The year 2019 also has the next edition of the Africa Cup of Nations. If Zimbabwean sport is to salvage anything out of this lacklustre year, they need to qualify for that, and weekend’s away tie with Congo-Brazzaville takes great significance in that pursuit.
Congo-Brazzaville is a real threat any given time, but with the more formidable Democratic Republic of Congo looming, the Warriors need to find some much-needed rhythm in what will be a gruelling qualification campaign. Hopefully, experienced coach Sunday Chidzambwa has something up his sleeve to counter a Congo side that is known to be at its very best at home.
Few doubt it can happen — Chidzambwa has at his disposal a group of players far from just decent, and with such players as the ever-reliable captain Knowledge Musona at the peak of their talents, the Warriors have the personnel to deliver.
One cannot help but think there will be more of playing to survive in Brazzaville on Sunday, what with a coach famed for an approach based on a strong defensive ethos.
It was not long ago that the Warriors were the butt of many jokes in the country. They then qualified for the last Africa Cup of Nations finals in 2017 and have been regional southern Africans champions in two consecutive seasons.
The country’s number one sport has an opportunity not only to restore national pride, but assert its own dominance as the sporting heartbeat of the nation.