Barca stars in town

BARCELONA legend Patrick Kluivert and former Dutch teammate Edgar Davids arrived in the country last night to meet government officials as Zimbabwe seeks international partnerships for football development.

BY HENRY MHARA

Patrick Kluivert

Patrick Kluivert

The delegation also includes Rayco Garcia, a football agent and an ex-Barcelona trainee.

The trio touched down at Harare International Airport in the evening, and Kluivert gave a brief interview to the media before they were whisked away to a city hotel. They will address a Press conference today.

“I have been to many parts of Africa, but it’s my first time in Zimbabwe. It’s a bit cold today, but I hope tomorrow the temperatures will be better. But it feels good to be in Zimbabwe, to be here with my brothers. They told me that a lot of Zimbabwean people followed me when I was playing for Barcelona and other teams and I’m very happy with that. I’m very happy to be with these people,” Kluivert, who spent six years at Barcelona from 1998, where he formed a successful partnership with Brazilian Rivaldo and won the Spanish La Liga championship in 1999, said.

Other than the Spanish giants, Kluivert was also part of AFC Ajax’s Golden Generation of the 1990s at the age of 18, scoring the winner in the 1995 Uefa Champions League final.

When asked by the Press to explain his visit to the country, he said: “I can’t tell you, it’s a surprise. You will know when the time is right.”

However, one of the organisers of the visit said the trio are in the country to discuss prospects of setting up a football foundation.

“They are here to discuss how they can establish a foundation. The plan will include staging an exhibition match between Barcelona legends and Zimbabwe legends. They have done that in other African countries like Uganda. That is all I can say at the moment, otherwise they will provide all the details at a Press conference.”

Garcia, who has a rich network of former and current international footballers, has a foundation that has academy projects in countries such as China, Panama, Tanzania and Uganda. He was also in Zambia last year, where he discussed prospects of establishing a similar project in that country.

The trio is expected to meet Sport and Recreation minister Makhosini Hlongwane and President Robert Mugabe.

“This visit conveniently coincides with government’s adoption of the community sport and recreation club system, which envisages the realisation of the ongoing initiative of establishing 8 000 soccer clubs across the country,” part of the statement from the ministry read. “Therefore, it is in this perspective that the expected exchange is anticipated to ignite synergies of developing soccer in the country.

“This comes at a time government is putting in place efforts to lobby for strategic international partnerships to assist in setting up high performance academies as well as complementing other government initiatives already in place to promote talent identification and development.”

Kluivert and Davids are not the first high-profile football legends to visit Zimbabwe, as former Manchester United striker, Andy Cole and another Barcelona legend, Luis Figo have been in the country before.