HARARE - Despite its popularity, football has brought little success to Zimbabwe and the country might need to find another national sport to pursue according to minister of Sport Makhosini Hlongwane.
The Mberengwa East Member of Parliament was answering a question posed by Mutasa Central legislator Trevor Saruwaka whilst giving oral evidence on the state of sport in the country in the Lower House yesterday.
Saruwaka had inquired which sport Zimbabwe needs to channel its limited resources towards like the case with other countries, which have identified their national sports.
“Clearly the corporate sector has put a lot of money into football,” Hlongwane replied.
“Government has put a lot of money into football. The football dividend has not been podium performance; unfortunately.
“When you look at small sport codes such as karate, such as cycling, such as motocross, and so forth; that’s where you see that when our athletes go to compete they bring back medals.
“For instance in bodybuilding the current Ms Universe is Zimbabwean (Helen Costa), netball; we are the current Africa gold medallists but if you try to compare the amount of investment that goes into these sports including karate that brings a lot of medals, rugby only narrowly missed making it to the last World Cup; they have been to the Rugby World Cup twice.
“So when we talk about success as far as the sport movement is concerned we may need to dig deep and say what is happening in many of the sport codes.”
The Mberengwa East legislator said identifying a single sport code Zimbabwe is good at is an ongoing process which his ministry has made a priority.
“It’s a process we are engaging, we are talking of comparing….I have already alluded that we cannot say we are a successful nation as far as football is concerned, the dividend does not match the investment. Yes it’s the most popular sport but not the most successful,” Hlongwane said.
The Warriors are largely seen as perennial failures having never qualified for the World Cup finals, and only qualified for their first African Nations Cup in 2004.
Since then there has not been many celestial moments in the country’s number one supported sport.
At last month’s African Nations Championships in Rwanda, the Warriors were knocked out in the group stages after failing to win a single game.
Calisto Pasuwa’s senior side is currently ranked 131 on the Fifa Coca-Cola rankings worse off than less footballing nations like Nicaragua, war-torn Syria, and St. Kitts and Nevis — a small Caribbean island with a standing population of just over 50 000.
Observers believe that one diagnosis of Zimbabwe’s football woes is a failure to establish its own identity.
Current world champions Germany are well-known for their workmanlike style of play that puts the team first ahead of the individual while Brazil have embraced joga bonito (the beautiful game) which exhibits creative dribbling skills and flair.
Hlongwane, however, admits government still needs to do more in so far as adopting all the national teams and giving development grants to sports associations.
“So we are still in the process of interrogating that in terms of which sport is Zimbabwe good at, all the way from boxing, athletics, and several sport codes, you will have to bear with us on that one honourable members,” he said.
His sentiments were recently echoed by Zambia football legend Christopher Katongo, who believes Zimbabwean football is under the illusion that it is better than it really is when politics and inconsistency have prevented the Warriors from realising their potential.
“If you sort out the politics then players will try to do better. Zimbabwe has qualified two times whilst Zambia has been there so many times. We are always there because we have the right attitude,” Katongo said in a recent radio interview.