Mugabe targets England and Brazil to use Zimbabwe as World Cup base
JOHANNESBURG – is hoping to persuade several teams, including England, to base their World Cup training camps in the country in an effort to attract tourism from neighbouring South Africa.
The unity government has drawn up a shortlist of Brazil, England and Nigeria to help improve Zimbabwe’s tarnished image. Its bid raises the prospect, albeit still distant, of stars such as David Beckham and Wayne Rooney warming up in a country still getting over political, economic and public health crises.
Zimbabwe believes the tournament could provide an economic lifeline as it struggles to rebuild after last year’s collapse. Tourism is seen as a quicker fix than its ailing agriculture, mining and manufacturing sectors. Securing the practice sessions of international football players would be a coup which could attract thousands of travelling supporters. Walter Mzembi, the tourism minister, visited Brazil last month but said England, on course to qualify for next year’s finals, were also a prime target.
"We have put England and Nigeria on our top three list," he said. "When it goes to top five, we have added Cameroon and Egypt. Although we have been given some targets by Brazil to meet, we should also look at England and Nigeria. We are working towards bringing them here as well, or at least one of them."
He added: "Tourism is the only practical gain left for us at the World Cup after our national team flopped. Soccer tourism is big business all over the world."
But Zimbabwe faces competition from other southern African countries aiming to lure visitors who want to combine football with a holiday, especially if the host nation runs short of accommodation. South Africa’s north-western Rustenburg stadium, where some games will be played, is 95 miles from Botswana. Mbombela stadium in Nelspruit lies an hour’s drive from the Mozambican border.
Meanwhile the World Cup trophy is being paraded through the continent on its way to South Africa. Danny Jordaan, chief executive of the local organising committee, denied its arrival in Harare in November would hand free propaganda to Robert Mugabe.
"We must not focus on Mugabe to the extent that we forget that there are people there with their own ambitions and aspirations," he said. "We should help them to resolve their problems. Always there’s a question of whether it is through the carrot or the stick, but I think most of the world is now looking at strengthening the process of change in Zimbabwe and getting democracy established. We’d certainly want to be part of that process." The Guardian (UK)