Robert Mugabe tries to lure Brazilian football team

Walter Mzembi has left for Brasilia, where he will hold talks with the Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on the subject, the state-owned Herald newspaper said today.

"I have been mandated to take president Mugabe’s special message to the president of Brazil," the minister was quoted as saying. "The Brazilians surely want to see new things.

"Should we lose the bid to host them, they should at least visit Zimbabwe as part of their acclimatisation programme. We should cash in on that."

Mozambique is also bidding to host the Brazilians, but it has the advantage of a shared common language, Portuguese.

Given the vast distances even within the host country, and the high standard of its facilities, it is unlikely that any of the teams will want to base themselves outside its borders.

But Zimbabwe would present an even harder challenge. Its infrastructure has crumbled under Mr Mugabe’s rule, with power and water cuts still frequent despite the formation of the unity government with Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change.

It also suffered a cholera epidemic only a few months ago, and the Brazilian coach Dunga will not want any possibility of sickness affecting his team, after its star striker Ronaldo fell ill just before the 1998 final against France, which they went on to lose 3-0.