Eddie Chikamhi Senior Sports Reporter
AS debate raged on the quality of Zimbabwean footballers following their failure to break into the world’s most competitive leagues, Sport, Arts and Recreation Minister Kazembe Kazembe has waded into the discussion and partly blamed the country’s skewed sports delivery system for the struggles.
Kazembe has been quietly following the discussion over the failures of the country’s best footballers such as Knowledge Musona, Ovidy Kaururu, Khama Biliiat, Marvellous Nakamba and George Chigova to go beyond the South African Premiership and the less glamorous leagues of Europe.
But the minister felt the problems were not confined to football but all the disciplines across the board.
Kazembe, now six weeks into his appointment as minister, yesterday gave a scathing analysis of the country’s skewed sports delivery system and revealed plans for a policy shift for Zimbabwe to try and turn around its fortunes.
The minister outlined a vision which he said Government is pursuing, but admitted that “there is a lot to be done to transform the country’s sports into a lucrative industry.
This comes hard on the heels of the heated debate on why Zimbabwean athletes are failing to make it on the big stage after The Herald this week made some depressing comparisons between the phenomenal rise of Liverpool’s Brazilian midfielder Roberto Firmino and Zimbabwe skipper Musona, who has remained trapped in the mediocrity of Belgian football yet they made their European breakthrough almost the same time in 2011.
Kazembe said Zimbabwe’s problems stemmed from a skewed sports delivery system.
The former Dynamos secretary-general said it was disheartening that Zimbabwe appear to have stagnated and had not made any strides on the international stage in the past few years.
“No one can doubt our talent reserves, Zimbabwe in the past produced champions in various sport codes. Look at boxing, we had the likes of Langton “Schoolboy” Tinago, Proud “Kilimanjaro” Chinembiri, Stix McLoud, Zvenyika Arifonso in boxing.
“In tennis we had the Black family and we also had Kirsty (Coventry) in swimming. Even in football we last produced players who made an impact in the English Premiership during the days Peter Ndlovu and Benjani Mwaruwari.
“These days we have our Knowledge Musona’s and Khama Billiats, fair and fine, but then it appears the trend is waning. We have the talent, but then we should ask ourselves where are the wheels coming off?
“These are some of the things that we want to address as a ministry. You can tell the problem is that our sports delivery system is not focused and integrated, it’s not well-organised.
“So in our national policy which we are going to launch very soon, our focus is to bridge the gap from grassroots because when people talk about sport they start the discourse at national or podium level but where it all came from people don’t seem to really want to put attention to that.
“All the focus is on national teams, but is there a continuous conveyor belt between the grassroots and national level or podium level in all sport codes? It doesn’t exist or if it’s there it’s not really well structured.
“How do we address that? Basically the vision that we have is to create the environment that will develop the sport industry as a whole,’’ Kazembe said.
The minister gave an insight into the plans his ministry has for sport in the government administration.
“There are three factors that will catapult sport development in this country. For starters we need to have systems in place. Remember I talked about the conveyor belt, there is no system to link schools and professional sport. And we are doing that by way of introducing a community club system.
“Once we put systems in place then we need infrastructure and facilities and grassroots level. That system also involves schools. In terms of infrastructure schools are going to play a big role. We will work closely with the Ministry of Education.
“After we have done that, let’s take for example with tennis, we would need to make sure that teachers and other officials are trained properly in order to coach tennis. In that way we have demystified tennis.”
Kazembe also emphasised the need for good corporate governance and professional approach to the way the sports administrators run their activities.
He also warned against the negativities that often scare away the corporate world and challenged sports administrators to up their game in a new dispensation in order to attract corporate partners.
“The problem we have in Zimbabwe is that the administration of our sport is not at the level where it is supposed to be. There is a lot that needs to be done.
“Yes, I know some are trying, but it’s not where it is supposed to be. Sport industry is big business world over, it’s a big industry in monetary terms, advertising, marketing etc.
“Yes, we may cry that the corporate world is not forthcoming, but are we also doing our part well. Obviously, we should also not forget that the economic challenges that the country is facing also impact on the performance of the companies and they may not have extra money to invest in sport.
“But let’s also hope that with this new dispensation we will see our economy grow and the environment change for the better.
“Even without those factors we as administrators also need to improve on the way we run our affairs. The moment we run it professionally we create a brand that everyone wants to associate with.
“We don’t want negativities because those things affect the appetite of the sponsors to come into sport. They also want value for their investment. So I think the starting point is administration,” said Kazembe.
Kazembe also revealed that Zimbabwe will engage South Africa for technical cooperation in sport.
The Mazoe West Member of Parliament is expected to meet his South African counterpart Thembelani “Thulas” Nxesi on the way forward.
“Very soon I’ll be meeting with my South African counterpart to see how best we can help each other because we both agree that there is a lot that we can share.
“They are willing to work with us and the communications to facilitate this meeting are already taking place.
“I also want to implore all Zimbabweans that it’s not just for the minister to turn things around. It’s for everyone, all stakeholders to play their part like what the President said when he said let’s build our country together. It also applies to sport.
“We must all be committed to see our sport industry develop. I welcome criticism, but let it be constructive. No one knows it all. Let’s concentrate on those things that bring us together than those that divide us.
“Let’s also shun corruption. People must not try and get into positions for personal benefit at the expense of the sport itself and nation at large.
“When people choose leaders they must look at those important things to see if the people they are choosing into office have sport at heart. I’m also appealing to all administrators to be accountable and to serve the purpose of your election or appointment.
“There have to be measurables. People should judge with what you have done for the sport,” said Kazembe.