Daredevils in Cape to Cairo road trip to watch AFCON showcase

Robson Sharuko Senior Sports Editor
THEY will start from South Africa’s Mother City, pass through nine major African cities, and as many countries, while also covering a distance of about 10 220km on a wild football adventure that will take them through some of the continent’s roughest and toughest terrains.

Along the way, in Bulawayo they will see the picturesque Cape-To-Cairo Restaurant, at the corner of Robert Mugabe and Leopold Takawira streets, with huge inscriptions on either sides of its walls of the distance they would have covered, from where their journey originated, and what they still have to conquer.

In Zambia, they will pass through its capital Lusaka and pause to pay their respects, on the outskirts of this city, to the site that hosts the graves of those footballers and coaches who perished in that plane crash, of the coast of Gabon, 26 years ago, in a disaster that shook the world.

The Heroes Stadium, adjacent to where these graves lie today, a lasting reminder of what the people of Zambia still think of those who paid the supreme sacrifice, in service for their motherland, during that ill-fated quest to take this proud football nation to the ‘94 World Cup.

They will pass through Nairobi where they are likely to see a city whose residents have caught up with the AFCON mood after their Harambee Stars ended 15 years of waiting for a return to the Nations Cup finals.

Depending on the time they pass through that city, they could probably find the 6.5 million people, who call this metro their home, celebrating a grand achievement for their favourite football son, Victor Wanyama, should Tottenham beat Liverpool in the UEFA Champions League final.

Their journey will also take them to the spiritual home of African politics, the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, a city of more than three million residents, which is the seat of the African Union headquarters.

They will then pass through the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, which staged the first AFCON finals back in 1957 but which has been in the news, in the past few months, for political upheaval.

Back then, in 1957, only three countries – Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia – took part in the Nations Cup finals but the tournament has grown over the years and 24 teams will, for the first time, compete in the latest edition in Egypt.

At the end of their transcontinental trip, they should arrive in the Egyptian capital Cairo, having covered virtually the entire length of the continent, and ready to take their part in the historic inaugural 24-team AFCON finals football festival.

Meet Alvin “Aluvah” Zhakata and Botha Msila, two Southern African daredevils, who somehow conjured this plan to take a road trip from Cape to Cairo in the name of adventure and the need to be there in Egypt to support their national football teams.

Zhakata is a die-hard Warriors fan and Msila, easily recognisable with his Bloemfontein replica jerseys and white head gear, is a passionate Bafana Bafana supporter.

Three years ago, Zhakata completed a 3000km road trip from Harare to Rwanda to support his Warriors in the African Nations Championships.

‘‘The 2019 AFCON in Egypt is upon us and, like the biblical Moses stammering his way the Egyptians, crossing the Red Sea and harsh desert conditions with conviction, all in the name football,’’ a guide to the adventure reads.

‘‘Africa has never done it better than this, but these dreamers are not new to tough terrains with hitch-hiking being the language they are so eloquent in.

‘‘Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this is a tale of one Alvin Zhakata, popularly known as Aluvah, the number one Zimbabwean soccer fan and his colleague and friend, Botha Msila, the number one South African soccer fan, who are daring, and determined, to go on a long and risky sojourn, yet exciting, from Cape Town, South Africa, all the way across the width of the continent to Cairo, Egypt, in time for Africa’s grand football festival.

‘‘The two fans will be carrying the flag of South Africa, the flag of Zimbabwe and, more importantly, the flag of COSAFA at a time the region will be represented by the highest number of participants at the tournament ever.

‘‘The long journey will be a loud statement that the region is ready to conquer Africa.’’

Botha has been known to bath in toilets at stadiums and travels across South Africa with a toiletry bag and spare underwear to enable him to watch as many games, in different cities, as possible.

He is also a familiar face on television, during SuperSport’s coverage of the ABSA Premiership, always caught in the stands singing, and dancing, in his familiar green-and-white Bloemfontein Celtic colours and white headgear.

According to the programme, the duo will travel from Cape Town into Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania,Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt and they aim to:

  •  To mobilise Zimbabwe, South Africa and COSAFA fans along the way.
  •  To use public road transport for safety.
  •  To use a boat across the Nile River at the Sudan/Egypt border.
  •  To arrive in Egypt, at least, 10 days before the tournament starts and so some roadshows in the country, especially in cities hosting COSAFA teams.

Registration shall be sought from the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest expedition ever embarked upon by the football fans in support of African teams at the AFCON finals.

To engage COSAFA and the Ministries of Sport in Zimbabwe and South Africa for accreditation and visa processing to gain smooth passage and security in all the countries to be passed through.

They also say SuperSport, SABC, ZBC, KweseTV and other broadcasting firms would be partnered and engaged to support the expedition on their mediums and they will also use social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to reach out to millions of people across the continent.

Promise Chabata, a Zimbabwean banker who works in South Africa, will be the manager of the expedition and a number of companies – Econet Wireless, Multichoice, NetOne, Impala Car Rentals, MTN – and individuals – Irvin Khoza, Philip Chiyangwa, Strive Masiyiwa, Genius Kadungure, Patrice Motsepe and Wicknell Chivayo – have been targeted to bankroll the expedition.