Eddie Chikamhi, Harare Bureau
FORMER Zimbabwe international Harlington Shereni has said the country should do more to support football legends and former players to live decent lives aft er their playing careers.
Th e former DeMbare defender was speaking at a press conference arranged by the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority yesterday to confi rm the exhibition match between Zimbabwe and World Class Legends which has now been pencilled for next Saturday in Harare.
Th e match, organised by ZTA in collaboration with the World Class Legends, was originally scheduled for this weekend but the plans fell through aft er the sponsors could not confirm the funds on time.
Th e purpose of the match is to market the country as a tourist and investment destination under the Government policy of “Zimbabwe is open for business.”
A galaxy of former players like Manchester United and Wales legend Ryan Giggs, Nigeria’s Austin “Jay-Jay” Okocha, former Brazilian goalkeeper Dida, Roberto Carlos, Julio Baptisa, Robert Pirez and Zimbabwe’s Bruce Grobbelaar are expected to descend on the country for the match.
Th e international legends will be coached by South African, Jomo Sono.
Shereni, who is vice-chairman of the local legends’ organisation, yesterday said the initiative by ZTA could go a long way in growing the local legends’’ brand.
He said former players and legends needed to be assisted to make their own living through the creation of opportunities to use their talents. He said their members, some of whom have played abroad, have the capacity to promote the country as tourism ambassadors while others could be handy technical men and television pundits. The local legends are ready to take the challenge against their international counterparts next week. Government has agreed to meet the local legends’ appearance fees, accommodation and transport fees while the tourists’ expenses will be catered for by an anonymous international sponsor.
This is the second time that the Zimbabwe legends will be given the platform following the exhibition match against Barcelona legends last year.
“This is an opportunity that has been given to us for the second time and we really appreciate ZTA for this. Our legends have not been supported in the past and it has given us big problems in terms of helping our own former players fend for themselves and also market our own people,’’ said Shereni.
“We have had to source funds from outside to help our former players in distress and only last week we had a fundraising drive to assist one of our legends who is sick. All these things could be a thing of the past if we have our own brand which is sellable out there and marketed not only in Zimbabwe.
“Maybe we can also represent Zimbabwe out there in terms of tourism as Zimbabwean legends. ZTA have led the way through this sports tourism programme. We also hope to give back to them. We also have friends and followers out there and using us as a marketing tool tourism, I think we can do great things for Zimbabwe.’’
He said legends were supported in other countries.
“Other countries support their own legends and we will be grateful if we see that here as well. This initiative from ZTA I hope is not going to end here. I hope more games are going to come our way. I also hope they will help us grow our brand and market it outside. It’s not only about the legends that are coming but also to appreciate the Zimbabwean legends who were stars in their own right during their playing days,” said Shereni.
ZTA chief executive Karikoga Kaseke confirmed the World Class Legends will be coming next week, arriving in Zimbabwe on Thursday, and then playing the match two days later.
Karikoga said they have also roped in Dynamos and Highlanders to warm the stage as curtain raisers.
The organisers are confident the event, which they hope will attract global attention, will not be eclipsed by the World Cup which kicks off in Russia next week.
ZTA have said the event will be broadcast by Manchester United, Barcelona and Real Madrid televisions to reach out to a global audience.