2013 sporting preview

HARARE - The just-ended year was a forgettable one for Zimbabwean sport, heralded by the national football side’s failure to qualify for the upcoming African Nations Cup finals in South Africa.

Zimbabwe also had a very second-rate campaign at the London Olympic Games, failing to win a single medal.

The Zimbabwe cricket team had little success on the pitch as well following a very promising 2011 in which they made a triumphant return to Test cricket after a six-year self-imposed exile.

It is the hope of many Zimbabweans that 2013 brings a change in fortune for all local teams and individual sportspersons:

Cricket


Zimbabwe kick start their 2013 campaign with the tour of West Indies next month, where they will play three ODIs, two Tests and two Twenty20 internationals starting on February 22.

Stability and a unity of purpose have been restored between the West Indies Cricket Board and the players, making the Caribbean side quite a formidable outfit again.

The Windies’ resurgence was symbolised by their victory in the ICC World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka last September.

It will be a tall order for Zimbabwe to salvage anything out of this tour. Zimbabwe will also likely embark on this tour with a new coach after Zimbabwe Cricket advertised for the post following the expiry of Englishman Alan Butcher’s contract.

The 2012-13 domestic cricket season is also scheduled to continue this Saturday with the Pro 50 competition.

Football  

The Warriors resume their faltering campaign to qualify for the 2014 World Cup under new coach Klaus-Dieter Pagels when they take on Egypt on March 22.

The Zimbabweans need to win all their remaining matches in Group G if they are to qualify for their first World Cup.

The return leg against the North Africans has been slatted for June 7.
 
With only one point after two games, it will be a tough ask for the team to overhaul the Pharaohs, lead at the top of the group.

Zimbabwe will then conclude their Group G campaign with a trip to Guinea on June 14 before hosting Mozambique on September 6.

The locally-based Warriors will also be in action in the Chan qualifiers after they were paired against Mauritius.

Since most football fans have become disenchanted with the Warriors, they will look forward to the domestic Premiership, which commences in March, with a higher degree of anticipation.

Together with the league, there will be at least two more knockout competitions namely the Mbada Diamonds Cup and the BancABC Sup8r.

The country’s most successful club, Dynamos, will also be celebrating its golden jubilee in a year they are Zimbabwe’s soul representative in continental competitions.

The Glamour Boys will be hoping to make amends for their disastrous African Champions League campaign last year.

Rugby

The Sables are scheduled to travel to Madagascar to take part in the Africa Cup Group 1A tournament, but dates for the tournament have not yet been confirmed.

Zimbabwe will also host Hong Kong in April for a one-off test in Harare.

The two unions are still in consultations over the exact date.

The country’s flagship team is also likely to play against South African provincial sides during the course of the year.   

In March, Harare Sports Club will stage the second edition of the Spar International Sevens, which organisers say will be bigger and better.  

On the domestic front, Harare Sports Club will begin the defence of their National Rugby League (NRL) title.

Golf

The Golden Pilsner Zimbabwe Open will again be the highlight on the local golfing calendar in 2013.

This year the tournament is reverting back to its March date and all the leading golfers on the Sunshine Tour will battle it out with the locals at Royal Harare Golf Club.

The Golden Pilsner Zambezi Tour also has a full schedule of tournaments that will run throughout the year.
 
Tennis

Zimbabwe will travel to Egypt in May to take part in the Davis Cup Africa Zone Group III, where they will play against 10 to 15 countries.

 Success in Egypt will see the country qualify to Africa Zone Group II as the team seeks to reclaim its glory days when they used to compete in the World Group.

Tennis Zimbabwe will also host the Harare Open in April, while the Zimbabwe Open has been pencilled in for August.

Athletics

The World Athletics Championships will be hosted by Russia later in August and this will give hot-shot Ngoni Makusha a chance to redeem himself after missing the London Olympics through injury.

The championships will take place at the Luzhniki Stadium, host to the 1980 Olympics, where Makusha will be Zimbabwe’s hopeful for a medal in the long jump and 100M events.
 
Important Dates

2013 Afcon Final: February 10
Comrades Marathon:  June 2
Uefa Champions League Final: May 25
Tennis: Australian Open January 14; French Open May 21; Wimbledon June 24, US Open August 26
Tour de France: June 29
Golf: The Masters April 11; US Open June 13; The Open July 18; US PGA August 8
The Ashes: First Test July 10, Trent Bridge; Second Test July 18, Lord’s; Third Test August 1, Old Trafford; Fourth Test August 9, Riverside; Fifth Test August 21, The Oval.

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