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WHILE it is every country’s right to bid and host the world cup tournament, Minister Walter Mzembi’s proposal for Zimbabwe is full of mischief and arrogance. For a man who comes from a party known for its bhora mugedhi slogan, this time, he is scoring a spectacular own goal. It was not so long ago that we failed to host the Africa Cup of Nations mainly because of inadequate infrastructure.

Historically, the people’s game has always had an intimate, uneasy, relationship with politics. In Brazil there were massive protests for the government’s excessive spending on stadia and forced evictions which highlighted wholesale struggles for human rights and the political classes’ narcissism.

What is admirable from Mzembi’s passionate utterances is his never-say-never spirit. But he is speaking from an offside position, exposing his government’s misplaced priorities. For a country grappling with a US$10 billion foreign and domestic debt, it’s shocking for the government to set sights on a project that will require more than US$20 billion.

The Feacutedeacuteration Internationale de Football Association (Fifa) has shown a willingness to give the hosting rights to less well-heeled countries such as latest host, Brazil, and immediate former host, South Africa. This gesture is laudable as it makes football a platform for unifying the haves and have-nots. But there is more to it than what meets the eye. Behind the shimmering scrim of spectacular billboards remain inconvenient truths. Fifa enjoys tax exemption status at the World Cup, as does its corporate partners, and Brazil’s Internal Revenue Service has claimed — in a cautious estimate — that such excerptions rob the host country of nearly US$250 million.

Fifa, like our own Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa), have long built a massive chasm between word and deed, and corporate giants — not struggling host nations — reap the benefits. Zifa having already sucked dry our football potential, is it prudent for the Zimbabwe government to chase a wild dream while ignoring the urgent economic reality facing its people? The government has failed to deal with such issues as corruption, overrun government expenditure, a volatile economic and political environment.

Unfortunately, Mzembi is selling himself short. His ministerial brief is slowly turning into that of “events organiser” par excellence and he has an impressive resume to show for it — successful hosting of the Africa Travel Association annual general meeting in 2012, the United Nations World Tourism Organisation General Assembly meeting last year and the Carnival in May.

But Zimbabwe is a football anaemic country. For so long we have been perennial under-achievers who were cast a spell by Ghanaian coach Ben Koufie. We broke the duck with two tepid appearances at Afcon, thanks to the genius of Peter Ndlovu. Instead of megaphone politicking, it is high time our government focuses on what matters most — the welfare of its people.

In order to build a better future for the next generation we need better education and medical facilities. Building new stadia for this mega-event will magnify the problems in Zimbabwe as such diversion of resources from civilian projects will be an unnecessary taxpayer’s expense. For instance, the children at Chingwizi camp, some of whom may be the national team players in 2034, remain in a hopeless situation. That is where we need to start.

Source : Financial Gazette

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