A NEW year brings with it renewed hope and optimism to a sport-mad nation such as ours.
By Enock Muchinjo
It is that time once again.
But it is also time to reflect on a year that has gone by and, in our case, one that will particularly get harder to forget as 2019 progresses.
When the Cricket World Cup roars into life at the end of May, reality will sink in that Zimbabwe will not be among the participating teams for the first time since 1983.
Wounds of the calamitous failure to qualify are still fresh. So when the first ball of the tournament is bowled on May 30 at The Oval in England — ironically the same country where Zimbabwe made its astonishing World Cup debut by famously defeating Australia 36 years ago — what a hurtful reminder it will be of the events of March 22 in Harare when the qualification competition’s host nation crumbled dramatically at the hands of the unlikeliest of opponents, United Arab Emirates.
2019 is also one of those really special ones in which the World Cups of two of the world’s major sporting disciplines will be staged in the same year, as has been the case since 1987.
The Rugby World Cup is the other, to be played in Japan between September 20 and November 2. Again, when the Rugby World Cup begins, it will be another cause of a cruel flashback in Zimbabwean rugby.
In a year that started with unprecedented vibes for Zimrugby — the appointment of a former Springbok coach and Tri-Nations winner, historic corporate support and all-round goodwill — a return to the World Cup since 1993 was non-negotiable if you asked anyone at the time.
Selection, miscommunication, egos and all would however prove the worst enemy for Zimbabwe in the end. Instead, it will be Namibia once again, not Zimbabwe, who will be lining up in a Pool B tie in Japan against the All Blacks to face the haka — a momentous occasion for any rugby player in the world.
Thankfully, there is still a real opportunity for Zimbabwe to shine at the world stage elsewhere.
The country’s netball team will be in the English city of Liverpool in July for that sport’s World Cup, and the girls from Zimbabwe will give us reason to cheer when they take on the best teams on the planet.
Another major event that should atone for the disappointment of the cricket and rugby World Cups is the Africa Cup of Nations, which has been awarded to Egypt.
Zimbabwe only need to avoid defeat against Congo-Brazzaville at home in March to seal a second straight appearance at Africa’s premier football showcase.
Easier said than done, but the Warriors know all too well that this is one they just cannot let slip away.
It is hard to imagine any bigger national sporting disaster in the history of this country if Congo comes here and spoil the party.
Qualification will be the icing on the cake for the welcome change of leadership at Zifa.
If the new broom at the association is going to settle well at the helm of the country’s number one sport, going to Egypt is a must — otherwise all hell might just break loose again.
It will be a blow of giant proportion.
Surely, not this time of all times, when we thought we had returned to normalcy; from a crazy couple of years when the game was now being run like one’s private business empire.