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Knowledge Musona of Zimbabwe challenged by Stanley Sanudi of Malawi during the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations Finals football match between Malawi and Zimbabwe on the 14 January 2022 at Omnisport Stadium Bafoussam, Cameroon / Pic Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

Sports

A time for us all to take national stock

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PERHAPS it was not just a coincidence that on the return to national consciousness by the country’s greatest achiever in our history of team sport, on that very same day, two perennial floppers remembered how to win.

In their own Africa Cup of Nations in Ghana, again, fortuitously in a West African country, the Zimbabwe women’s hockey team was the first to record the first success story in a national hat-trick of international victories for the country on Tuesday. 

The sprightly young ladies from Zimbabwe bounced back from a 3-0 opening defeat to continental power South Africa to outplay newcomers Uganda 5-0.

Hockey in Zimbabwe, bigger on the women’s side for historical reasons, slipped quietly beneath the radar for many years – a slow and painful demise – after a young team from this country that had arrived in Moscow as late replacement sensationally clinched the field hockey gold medal at the 1980 Olympic Games. To a large degree, a win over Uganda, for a former Olympic champion, should not be reason to be overly excited. 

But there is a background that should not be ignored here, and without sounding like a broken record, I have often opined how Zimbabwe as a sporting nation needs to put its money where its mouth is.

Fact is that Zimbabwe has been markedly stronger in the women’s game for the simple reason that hockey is the foremost code for females in the community that traditionally play this sport, while their male counterparts tend to lean more towards rugby and cricket. 

It is a niche community to tap into, and with smooth racial transformation inevitable overtime as in any other previously “elite” sport, so to speak, Zimbabwe can surely have her day in the sun again in hockey – stronger in numbers. 

I am not sure I have the same optimism, for the time being at least, in another national team that played in another Africa Cup of Nations of a different sport on Tuesday.

In the great scheme of things, I doubt that the victory over Guinea by the the Warriors – already eliminated from the tournament in Cameroon – can leave us with key talking points.

Losing to Malawi in a must-win match was a bitter pill to swallow for Warriors fans, and the atmosphere of great disillusionment that had dominated the pre-tournament phase soon returned to engulf the nation again.

Football in Zimbabwe is in shambles right now. We have been down that road before.

The players have betrayed the fans’ trust again. Facilities across the country are a collective national embarrassment.

The only one ground we had has been banned twice by the Confederation of African Football (Caf). There might not be another reprieve until somebody does what they ought to do – for goodness’ sake!

Zifa, who use the facility for international matches, say it is government property, so let them fix it. The government, it seems, has forgotten that. 

Why is it that nobody wants to take responsibility?

It s a major national concern that never goes away, much to our own detriment. Whenever faced with some mandate for the good of our football, we scurry for cover, down a dark abyss, hoping to emerge from there after a saviour from Mars comes to the rescue. 

Thankfully, in another result that mattered on the Tuesday, Zimbabwe’s stunning 22-run win on tour in Sri Lanka, to level the three-match ODI series 1-1, was some refreshing stuff from a team that has often floundered on the big stage for the greater part of 17 years.

The tour, part of the ICC World Cup Super League, pathway to 2023 World Cup qualification, is of massive significance to Zimbabwe after we missed out on the 2019 edition, the first time it has happened since 1983.

As you read this, the Chevrons are either still battling it out with the hosts in Pallekele in the series decider, or we already have the result.

The hockey ladies, at this time, have also played their third match in Ghana, against Namibia, who are no slouch in this sport.

I do not have a crystal ball. I wish I knew the outcome of both matches. But hopefully we end the week celebrating, with everyone beginning the course of taking responsibility, without the usual ducking and diving associated with Zimbabwean sports. 

Happy New Year, folks. 

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