Editorial Comment: Sport can, will take our nation further

IT’S a sporting week that has been dominated by football — the wild comeback nights in the UEFA Champions League and Europa League, the historic appearance of four English teams in the finals of the two tournaments and Tonderai Ndiraya’s perfect homecoming show at Rufaro.

The Young Warriors gaffer, back in charge of Dynamos after the club’s chiefs finally sacked the unpopular Lloyd “MaBlanyo’’ Chigowe, made a triumphant return to Rufaro as head of the country’s biggest football club by guiding them to a crucial win over ZPC Kariba.

While problems continue to stalk Highlanders, who failed to win yet again, there are signs of a slight improvement at DeMbare since Ndiraya’s arrival and, as the coach has repeatedly said, stopping the bleeding, caused by a succession of defeats, was going to be his first task.

While football has dominated the back pages, as it usually does when it produces the kind of magic that we have witnessed at home, where CAPS United also continue to flex their muscles in this early part of the season, and in Europe, where the English clubs have been dominant, something special has been going on in Harare.

It might not have grabbed the headlines, but that doesn’t mean something good has been unfolding on our doorstep with this country successfully hosting the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup Africa Region Qualifier 2019 which has been going on in the capital all week.

It’s just the start of a global cricket festival which will see three other similar events being hosted elsewhere around the world in pursuit for places at the ICC T20 World Cup.

“The month of May will showcase the ICC T20 World Cup as a global growth vehicle for cricket, with 24 countries set to take part in women’s and men’s regional qualifying events around the world,’’ the body that governs international cricket said in a statement.

“In May alone, 50 ICC T20 World Cup qualifying matches will be played, with the four events each hosted in different countries as the field is narrowed on the road to Australia 2020.

“The action begins with the Africa Women’s Qualifiers in Zimbabwe on May 5, with the hosts competing against Mozambique, Uganda, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Uganda and Namibia for a place in the global qualifying event.

“Starting the day after on May 6, Vanuatu will host PNG, Samoa, Japan and Indonesia, with the latter competing in an ICC women’s event for the first time.

“The final women’s regional qualifier for the month will take place in Florida, as Cayman Islands, Bermuda and Argentina compete for one spot from the Americas.

“The Men’s Africa Regional Qualifiers will also take place from May 19 with Uganda hosting Namibia, Kenya, Botswana, Ghana and Nigeria for two places in the ICC T20 World Cup Global Qualifier that will be held in the UAE later in 2019.’’

A week after the current women qualifier started in Harare, featuring the hosts, Tanzania, Rwanda, Nigeria, Mozambique, Namibia, Uganda, Kenya and Sierra Leone, it’s refreshing to note that the organisers have done a virtually perfect job in staging an excellent tournament.

It’s a measure of whom we are as a people that, for all the challenges that we continue to face on a number of fronts, especially the economic challenges our political leaders are battling to tame, we still remain a country that can win the confidence of global bodies like the ICC to stage successful tournaments like these African Women Qualifiers.

Last year, we had 10 international teams in this country, including two-time World Champions, the West Indies, during the ICC World Cup Qualifier and the way we organised that tournament, the huge crowds that came to watch the matches, won us rave reviews around the globe.

Now, one year later, we have done it again by organising another very successful international cricket tournament and we have to give a lot of credit to the Zimbabwe Cricket leadership which has shown, once again, that when it comes to staging such events, they have certainly come of age.

Of course, ZC leader Tavengwa Mukuhlani and his crew would not have written a success story without working hand-in-hand with the Government, who were supportive from day one, and it’s such healthy partnerships that can only take our sport, and our country, a step forward.

Women sport is now huge around the world and it’s refreshing that we have been producing a good number of skilful cricketers who have shown, in this tournament, that they can play this game well and, if they are kept together and ZC continue to invest in them, they could turn out to be a very competitive side.

Tasmeen Granger, Anesu Mushangwe, Chipo Mugeri, Mary-Anne Musona and Modester Mupachikwe are some of the players who have shown they can play this game very well and, now that they have taken their team into the final tomorrow where they will take on Namibia, we hope they will bring a fitting end to their campaign by winning this tourney.

The Chevrons missed their opportunity last year when, given two chances to win and go to the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 in England, and we just hope the Lady Chevrons will not choke tomorrow.

But, even if it happens that we don’t end it all with a victory, given that sport is very unpredictable, we can take heart from the fact that we have organised a very good tournament.

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