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A winter of hope and expectation

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Enock Muchinjo

IT SEEMS the winter has set upon us a little bit early this year, sending those unable to ward off the cold of the season scurrying for cover. 

As the days progress and the winter becomes more punishing, Zimbabwean sport will move into a period of expectation, beginning early June when our football team launches its quest to qualify for its first World Cup in history.

Such a mission by the Warriors – who are bursting at the seams with red-hot talent at the moment – could not have started in greater fanfare than a match with South Africa, our fancied but struggling neighbours who will no doubt target to revive their faltering fortunes against their great rivals Zimbabwe.

By no means, I do not subtract Ghana and Ethiopia from the equation – these are formidable opponents in Africa on any day. But pardon my excitement at the prospects of this great trans-Limpopo derby, which comes in a contest of such high stakes. 

With Zimbabwe having recently qualified for their third straight Africa Cup of Nations – and then the factor of neighbourly rivals like South Africa conspicuously missing out – being in the running for a World Cup place, from the same pool, will be a cross-border battle like never seen before between these two great nations.

All this begins deep in the Zimbabwean winter, as our national rugby team unveils its own World Cup quest at the beginning of July in the picturesque settings of North Africa, in Tunisia.

Zimbabwe’s Sables will travel there to take on the hosts and a yet-to-be-determined team, Cameroon the favourites for me to join, with the top two sides progressing to the final phase of 2023 World Cup qualifiers next year.

The Tunisia leg of World Cup qualifiers should not be too much trouble for Zimbabwe, in all honesty. The Zimbabwe Rugby Union has pulled out all the stops to steer the Sables to the game’s greatest stage for the first time since 1991.

But, still, how the Sables begin the campaign this year in Tunisia will be hugely important because it will provide insight into their depth, and seriousness, for when tougher opponents like Namibia and Kenya confront them in 2022 for the solitary World Cup qualification slot from this continent.

As I was getting excited about two of our country’s foremost codes launching their World Cup bids in the winter, news filtered in that the third – cricket – will host Bangladesh in two Tests, three ODIs and three T20s in June and July. 

It is a rare bilateral full series for Zimbabwe – across all three formats of the game – and we will all be looking forward to this feast. What a bumper winter for Zimbabwe’s best sports stars! Hopefully, a good omen.

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