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Dave Houghton


A year of continued decline, lifting of ban, and no action at all for some



YOU could say the year has ended in the most appropriate way for Zimbabwean sport, with the resignation of a coach following a horrific run of form, and suspension of two players in that sport over the use of drugs.


The country’s most active national team became a joke, a source of ridicule, and outright embarrassment to its growing band of fans – after losing to emerging nations Namibia and Uganda to fail to qualify for the T20 Cricket World Cup next year in the West Indies and the United States.

Earlier in the year, Zimbabwe’s cricket team had again missed out on qualification for the 50-over World Cup, which was hosted by India.

Teams like Bangladesh and Afghanistan have emerged over the years to overtake Zimbabwe in the world cricketing order, but it is expecting too much for the Chevrons to stomach that this once respected team can now lose an important World Cup qualifier to, of all teams, Uganda.

Everybody involved in this game in Zimbabwe is searching for answers – just how have we come to this level? Those in charge owe the nation a response. But we do not see it coming, because in all honesty, the problem is actually within themselves.

All we will get is scapegoating, such as the respected coach Dave Houghton resigning, as he has done. Yet we all know that the cancer lies way underneath, beyond Houghton and others before him. This is the fourth Zimbabwe coach to go inside eight years, under the same board.

All good coaches, mind you, one of them – Dav Whatmore – a World Cup winner with Sri Lanka in 1996.

One of the dismissed coaches under this period was none other than the legendary former Zimbabwe captain Heath Streak, who sadly passed on in the year after a battle with colon cancer at the age of 49.

The great Streak, who was a constant feature of Zimbabwe’s world-famous side of years gone by, deserved a much better send-off than what the game has been going through in this country.

Hogging the limelight for all the wrong reasons was the story of Zimbabwean cricket in the year and, as if to cap it all, national team players Wessly Madhevere and Brandon Mavuta have recently been suspended after testing positive for “recreational drugs”.

It is hard, with developments like this, to convince the long-suffering cricket followers of this country that the players are blameless. Clearly, as I have mentioned before, winning or losing is not much different with this team and the lifestyles of the players bare it all.

With cricket in all sorts of trouble, football in Zimbabwe was given a lifeline after world governing body Fifa lifted the country’s international ban in July, to huge relief.

The Warriors responded with two draws against Rwanda and Nigeria in their opening World Cup qualifiers in November, but with the humiliation of being forced to host the Nigerians away from home due to lack of stadiums in the country.

A whole country, with an abundance of natural resources and fully fledged national sports administrations, having no shame in being without a single stadium, when one individual is showing the way by building one in months!

It is classless, shameful, as a nation. At least the footballers still do have some pride left in them and they nearly should have beaten Nigeria in that game in Rwanda, a result that would have earned them our newsroom’s Team of the Year award.

That award instead goes to Zimbabwe’s Under-20 rugby team, which again played an enterprising brand of rugby to retain its Youth Africa Cup title in Kenya.

What a team, this merry band of young men, and indeed very well coached by the talented Shaun De Souza.

In a year that their senior counterparts finished without playing a single Test match, the nation should have hope in these young fellows and I have no doubt in my mind that this is the group to finally take Zimbabwe back to the World Cup, for the first time since 1991.

Certainly, this team was a major takeaway for the year.