By Augustine Hwata
27th November 2009
President Mugabe last night challenged the Warriors to qualify for the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil as Zimbabwe celebrated the arrival of the iconic World Cup Trophy, on its soil, with a colourful function at the Harare International Airport.
The World Cup Trophy is on a tour of Africa ahead of the 2010 World Cup finals, which would be held in South Africa — the first time that the global football showcase will be hosted in Africa.
President Mugabe, accompanied by the First Lady Amai Mugabe and members of the First Family, led the nation last night in welcoming the World Cup Trophy to Zimbabwe.
The President urged the Minister of Education, Sport, Arts and Culture, David Coltart, to ensure that the Warriors would also take part at the 2014 World Cup showcase in Brazil.
For that to happen, President Mugabe said it was imperative that Zifa should be given all the support to ensure that the Warriors get the best preparations to be able to compete with the best and qualify for the 2014 World Cup show.
“We are giving this World Cup the respect it deserves,” said President Mugabe.
“But we must also qualify to play for it and Senator Coltart the job is yours. Let’s support the youngsters.”
President Mugabe lifted the World Cup Trophy, an iconic symbol of the ultimate triumph in football, which has — until now — been performed only by some of the world’s greatest players like Pele.
Yesterday marked the first time that this 36,8 centimetre high and 6,175 grammes of 18-carat gold trophy has come to Zimbabwe. It’s on a 53-nation tour of Africa that began on September 21 and will end in South Africa just hours before the 2010 draw on December 3.
Hundreds of people from across the political, economic and cultural backgrounds, thronged the domestic terminal at the airport last night to welcome the Fifa World Cup Trophy, the real gem that has been given to the world champions since 1974.
It was a colourful ceremony that combined a traditional Zimbabwean welcoming ceremony, usually reserved for brides, and the grandeur of the latest technology and décor.
Fans started arriving as early as 4pm while there was a section reserved for VIPs and guests.
The trophy was in Madagascar earlier in the day before it made its way to Zimbabwe in the specially branded Coca- Cola/Fifa World Cup chartered plane.
The plane carrying the cup arrived at 7:30pm, but it was not until 8:20pm that the formal proceedings got underway with the crowd jostling to get a glimpse of the cup.
The event was beamed live on national television while the domestic terminal at the airport had been specially prepared for this event.
Addressing the crowd, President Mugabe said Zimbabwe was happy to be hosting such an historic event.
“Zimbabwe today happily joins the family of football enthusiasts in welcoming the world’s most prestigious sports trophy, the Fifa World Cup.
“On behalf of the inclusive Government and people of Zimbabwe, I feel greatly honoured to host the Fifa World Cup as it makes this historic journey on our continent, whose final is in South Africa,” he said.
President Mugabe chronicled how football has evolved from being a village pastime centuries ago to what it is today, with universally accepted rules, and a proven unifying factor of all the people across the world.
“Football, symbolised by this Fifa World Cup Trophy on display, has turned into a vehicle for socio-economic and political transformation of societies,” he said.
The President said the United Nations had used sport, in general, and football, in particular, to promote awareness on HIV and Aids, to combat poverty, killer diseases and civil strife.
“Football has demonstrated its might by successfully promoting the idea of fair play, protection of children’s and women’s rights, tolerance, democracy and fellowship,” he said. President Mugabe said the coming of the World Cup Trophy will leave a lasting impression in Zimbabwe and the whole of Africa.
He urged Zimbabweans to take advantage of the platform, set by the coming of the World Cup Trophy last night, to forge a positive stance in marketing Zimbabwe.
“Zimbabwe looks forward to, and indeed extends an open invitation to top football-playing nations as well as the multitudes of fans who will enjoy the hospitality of Zimbabwe and her people through the 2010 Fan Embassy that will be co-ordinated by Zifa and the Ministry of Tourism,” he said.
President Mugabe had the gathering in stitches when he said he felt that the gold used to make the World Cup probably came from Zimbabwe.
“Britain does not have any gold. Neither does Germany have any gold. I am tempted to think that it came from Africa, and from Zimbabwe, and was taken away by adventurers who shaped it into this cup.
“When I hold the cup, I know all of you will have the urge that I should not let it go because this could be our gold,” he said. Fifa representative Heidi Hanel said Zimbabwe should cherish the great moment in hosting the World Cup Trophy on its African tour.
At exactly 9:15pm, Hanel unveiled the trophy, and then handed it over to President Mugabe who then hoisted it high in an emotional moment. After unveiling the trophy, President Mugabe and the First Family were the first to have their photos taken with the trophy before Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, Cabinet ministers, chiefs and Delta and Coca-Cola representatives followed suit. Delta Zimbabwe chief executive Joe Mutizwa said his team was happy to welcome the trophy.
In presenting the Coca-Cola speech, Mutizwa said Zimbabwe was the focus of global attention.
Senator Coltart thanked Fifa and Coca-Cola for including Zimbabwe on the tour. He was hopeful that the tour would help to improve the image of Zimbabwe that has been battered in the last 10 years.
Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Walter Mzembi also supported the use of sport and tourism to market Zimbabwe.
The rest of Zimbabwe will have a chance to have a photo session at the Harare International Conference Centre today where the trophy will be viewed. A gig will be staged at the HICC before the trophy leaves for Malawi this evening.