Source: Zimbabwe Independent
Agency: Twenty Ten
Headline: Zimbabwe chases World Cup spillovers as time runs out
Location: Harare, Zimbabwe
Article Synopsis: Zimbabwe is a significant neighbour of South Africa. When South Africa’s bid to host the 2010 World Cup was successful, attention was given to other countries getting involved and benefitting. How can a country like Zimbabwe, which has suffered years of political, economical and social instability, benefit from the World Cup?
Opening paragraph: One of South Africa’s trump cards in its 2010 Fifa World Cup bid was the undertaking to help fellow African countries to benefit from this historic tournament.
Keyword: Zimbabwe and the World Cup
Text: One of South Africa’s trump cards in its 2010 Fifa World Cup bid was the undertaking to help fellow African countries to benefit from this historic tournament. While it might be unrealistic, perhaps, to expect the rest of the continent to benefit directly from the South Africa 2010 World Cup, the impact of the tournament outside South Africa should, at least, be felt by its neighbouring countries. Zimbabwe is hoping that some qualified teams will camp in the country for the purpose of acclimatising ahead of the World Cup.
Zimbabwe, South Africa’s most prominent neighbouring country, has suffered deep political, social and economic meltdown for close to a decade. With a new inclusive government now at the helm in the southern African nation, concerted efforts are being made by stakeholders in sports and government to see to it that Zimbabwe plays a role, in their own small way. Is it a possibility for the World Cup to work for the greater good of Zimbabwean football and the country in general?
A sober analysis does not suggest so. While the unity government has stabilised certain facets of Zimbabwean life, it still draws skepticism from the international-community due to the stifling upper-hand of president Robert Mugabe and his Zanu-PF party.
Mugabe lost the presidential elections in March 2008 to the Movement for Democratic (MDC) leader, Morgan Tsvangirai. Following widespread violence targeting opposition supporters and perpetuated by stage agents and forces loyal to Mugabe, Tsvangirai pulled out of the second round of voting in protest. Mugabe went ahead with the polls in a one-man contest.
A long process of heated talks followed, leading to Tsvangirai’s inauguration as Prime Minister in a compromise deal. There is still pressure from hardliners inside the party and supporters, for Tsvangirai and the MDC to walk out of the deal due to Mugabe’s insincerity in fulfilling his side of the bargain.
Tsvangirai has spoken out against his long-time opponent’s antics in a variety of seperate interviews. Yet Zimbabwe’s minister of sports David Coltart, a white senate member for the MDC, says the shaky unity deal will not scuttle the country’s World Cup drive. “I think it’s important to realise that this inclusive government agreement has always been flawed,” Coltart says, “It has always been a problematic process. There are good days and bad days. Sometimes tensions rise and you have to deal with it. We are working through it.” He went on to say, “All principals (President Mugabe, Prime Minister Tsvangirai and Deputy Premier Arthur Mutambara) 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 broker a deal to end it.”
But how realistic are Zimbabwe’s chances? “It’s still realistic,” Coltart replies. “I recently met with the Mexican ambassador and he was very supportive. I will be going to France 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.”
Henrietta Rushwaya, the chief executive of the Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) however, does not see things moving at the right pace. She says the South Africans have not been forthcoming, sevens months before the competition explodes into life. “That could be lip service,” Rushwaya said, “Because on Zifa’s side we haven’t received any communication from the Local Organiding Committee (LOC) in South Africa.” She went on to surmise that perhaps South Africa is hoping to capitalise on the influx of Zimbabweans in their country, mostly in the construction industry. She added that, “At the end of the day you want the involvement of experts from other countries. Maybe South Africa is looking to do it through Cosafa (Confederation of Southern African Football Associations) and Fifa. Maybe they want to do it at a later stage. At the moment, all initiatives are being done by Fifa. That is why we have come up with our own initiatives as Zimbabwe, like hosting the Cosafa.”
In May, LOC chief executive Danny Jordaan told Zimbabwe’s Independent newspaper that individual countries hoping to play World Cup roles will have to do most of the groundwork themselves. “The choices about camping locations are made by the teams, particularly the associations and the coaches” Jordaan said. “It’s really not up to the LOC.”
In October, Zimbabwe hosted the Cosafa Senior Challenge tournament, a regional championship for southern African nations. Although the tournament has lost its glamour after sponsors South African Breweries pulled the plug on the event, and teams like South Africa often field weakened sides, the Zimbabweans took it seriously with organisers dubbing it “Zimbabwe’s own World Cup.”
It’s generally felt that the successful hosting of the Cosafa tournament would gauge Zimbabwe’s readiness for the World Cup. Commenting on potential campers in Zimbabwe, Rushwaya names the qualified North Korea as “one country which will almost certainly come.” She pins hopes on African qualifiers to answer Zimbabwe’s call, and on the country’s foreign-based players like Manchester City forward Benjani Mwaruwari to convince players from these teams. “We are hoping the African teams will come,” she says. “Fine, there is nothing wrong with being optimistic and approaching the European 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 (Mwaruwari) 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.” In a development that could usher a new a ray of hope, Zifa wrote to the German Football Federation in May seeking the strengthening of bilateral co-operation between Zimbabwe and Germany. The main bilateral tie proposal by the Zimbabwean FA was the offer to host the German national team and supporters ahead of the World Cup. What will encourage the association is that one of their proposals has already been granted by the Germans on a government-to-government agreement.
Experienced German football coach Klaus-Dieter Pagels visited Zimbabwe to “conduct the evaluation of a long-term project.” The arrangement is financed by the German federal government. For hospitality expert Shingi Munyeza, the group chief executive for African Sun Limited, all is not lost for Zimbabwe. “On the hotel size we have no problem at all,” Munyeza said, “And in the greater Harare area alone we have close to 2 000 rooms. The issue really is not about accommodation. People are not going to spend all the time in hotel rooms though. It’s about other facilities such as stadia and gyms.”
Munyeza admits that Zimbabwe has to spruce up its image beforehand. “By virtue of comparison to the rest of the (southern African) region we are ready. But what you don’t want is to be well prepared in hotels, for example, when everything else is not ready. There is goodwill from people, but there are still other outstanding things we need to sort out as citizens, government and civil society.”
He went on to say that the real challenge is the issue of accessibility. “We need to work on airlines. Just imagine if there are 500 people in Harare who need to go to South Africa. Do we have those airlines? What I can tell you is that people are coming to Zimbabwe. You cannot book a flight for the next day to Harare any more. The airlines are full. The hotels are full. Whether that’s curiosity or not, we never had that.”