Eddie Chikamhi, Harare Bureau
ITALY’S World Cup winner Gianluca Zambrotta says he has been charmed by Zimbabwe after his World Class Legends rounded off their tour of the country with a 5-2 win over the local legends at the National Sports Stadium yesterday.
Zambrotta, one of the many former stars in the visiting team’s line-up, said he was excited being in the country and pledged to tour Zimbabwe again.
The organisers last night hosted a dinner for the tourists.
The legends had a chance to visit some holiday resorts, including Victoria Falls, during their week’s stay in Zimbabwe.
Zambrotta, who played for big European clubs like Juventus, Barcelona and AC Milan, yesterday said the touring legends were impressed by the country.
“This is a great country with a lot of potential. I have been here before, this is my second time, and I am feeling very well.
“Victoria Falls is one of the wonders of the world and the feeling when you are there is amazing. Given an opportunity I believe I will come back,” said Zambrotta.
The visitors outclassed the hosts courtesy of a brace each from former Spain internationals Fernando Morientes and Ruben de la Red.
Guest player Prophet Walter Magaya grabbed the other goal from the penalty spot before Zimbabwe reduced the arrears through substitutes Lloyd Chitembwe and Charlie Jones. But, as was largely feared yesterday, the World Cup currently underway in Russia proved too powerful a counter attraction for the high-profile exhibition match which drew a smaller crowd than expected.
It appeared many people apparently chose to follow the World Cup match between Portugal and Morocco on television than going to the giant stadium where the match was free of charge. Last year, the National Sports Stadium attracted a capacity paying crowd when the Barcelona legends toured for a similar matc.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa took time off his busy schedule to make a brief appearance at the stadium and greeted both sets of players before he left with his entourage.
The visiting World Class Legends were a cut above their local rivals who were 5-0 down by the 25th minute. The legends featured some great names such as Julio Baptista, Joan Capdevila, Albert Luque, David Albeld, Andres Palop, Koke Contreras, Francesco Coco and Marcos Senna.
The Zimbabwe starting line-up was made up of Labani Kandi, Harlington Shereni, Zenzo Moyo, Stanford ‘’Stix’’ Mtizwa, Ronald Sibanda, Alexander Maseko, Stanley Chirambadare, Kaitano Tembo, Desmond Maringwa, Edelbert Dinha and Moore Moyo.
Joel Lupahla, Agent Sawu, Callisto Pasuwa, Alois Bunjira and Stewart Murisa also featured in the match.
Prophet Magaya was requested to play for the visiting legends and he made a cameo before he asked for an early substitution.
Magaya, who also chipped in with resources, said he was impressed by the initiative to bring legends who will act as ambassadors for Zimbabwe abroad.
“It’s a proof that Zimbabwe is a safe destination. I think it has proved to the world that we are one of the best countries to host anyone. For me it’s a very big boost, even for my ministry.
“But right now my main focus is on schools. I have started sponsoring schools to pick talent from a young age. We had a tournament last week in Mhondoro and there were 32 schools participating.
“It was a good tournament. We are expecting another one in Seke where we also look forward to host 32 schools,” said Magaya.
South Africa legend Jomo Sono was also in attendance and hailed the initiative by Zimbabwe. He said the legends are an inspiration the younger generations.
“It’s good to have such people in your backyard. About 90 percent of these guys have won the World Cup and other major tournaments for their countries and teams in Europe.
‘’It’s quite an inspiration. It’s good that they are gracing Africa and Zimbabwe in particular,” said Sono.
Former Dynamos defender Stanley Chirambadare said the tour by the legends taught the local legends and former players vital lessons in terms of setting up their own structures so that they fully exploit their brand.
“We have just been taught to go back to school. We lacked simple things like football basics. These guys train and play together regularly but we just assembled a team and played. It’s about organisation.
“We need to improve on how we do things.
“The good thing is we are on it. A journey of a thousand miles starts with one step. This is the first step,’’ he said.