By Anesu Chakanetsa
THE Zimbabwe contingent for the Paris 2024 Olympics is gradually diminishing as the Zimbabwe Sevens Rugby team disappointed fans after they were beaten by Uganda in the quarter finals.
They went on to be trashed by Madagascar in the third place play-off.
In front of a decent sport-loving crowd at Harare Sports Club, the Cheetahs, as they are affectionately known, had a decent start, defeating Burkina Faso in their first match but the going got tougher when they faced the high-spirited Uganda.
Despite being the host team, they missed out on both the Paris Olympics and the World Sevens Rugby Championships, which is one of the most prestigious rugby tournaments in the World.
There was more heartbreak for the Zimbabwe sport-loving fans, adding more to what has been happening this year.
The year started with the nation dealing with the pain of not being part of global football.
The senior men’s football team, the Warriors, were missing out on the AFCON 2024 qualifiers, same as all the other junior teams’ qualification campaigns.
Zimbabwe was suspended from international football by FIFA due to the so-called ‘government interference in the game’.
Zimbabwe’s arm of the Sports Ministry, the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC), saw it wise for the benefit of the masses and the betterment of the game to sanitise the game of football, Zimbabwe’s most populous sport.
There was unscrupulous use of finances as well as abuse of women within ZIFA that called for the SRC to step in and clean up the garbage.
Although there was morbid propensity for negativity among the fans and several delays, international football suspension was lifted in July 2023, steered by the appointed ZIFA Normalisation Committee.
But just after the sweet announcement, the Confederation of African Football announced that Zimbabwe’s FC Platinum was not going to take part in the CAF Champions League, nor Bulawayo Chiefs in the CAF Confederation Cup because their respective league and league cup triumphs took place at a time Zimbabwe was suspended from international football.
That was another heartbreak!
Heartbreaking too was the announcement that Zimbabwe had only seven approved arenas for the 2023 Zimbabwe Premier Soccer League (ZPSL) this season, and all the other facilities were under renovations.
The gigantic National Sports Stadium (NSS) had seven teams using it as their home ground as other facilities in Harare were said to be under renovation.
Yes, seven teams.
Then the pitch became deplorable.
The grass suffered when the elephants fought, and Harare said ‘goodbye’ to football.
It was announced that Dynamos and Highlanders were going to share Barbourfields as a home ground, a necessary evil that was supposed to cement the relationship between the two teams.
But the arrangement turned out to be a horrible mistake as later on in the season the two fought during a match in which Dynamos was at home against Highlanders.
Missiles were thrown when Dynamos was leading 2-0 in the 38th minute and there was a hullabaloo thereafter.
Some fans were allegedly found with firearms, at least with empty cartridges.
With all these football shenanigans going on, people had already turned to cricket.
And on social media people were quick to post that cricket was ‘the better lover’, a sport that does not disappoint.
They called it ‘Cricbae’.
The masterclass hosting of the International Cricket Commission Men’s World Cup Cricket qualifiers by Zimbabwe was not a disappointment at all, nor the first stages of the qualifiers of the tournament, where Sean Williams and Sikanda Raza were hitting sophisticated ‘sixes’, much to the awe of the boisterous partisan crowd wearing industrial protective clothing.
The Netherlands, the mighty West Indies, US and Nepal were shown how it’s done by the Chevrons (Zimbabwe).
The tide, however, turned when the Chevrons camped in Bulawayo, getting defeats from Sri Lanka and, strangely, Scotland in the penultimate match that was supposed to get the nation to the world showpiece to be held in India soon.
Perhaps Bulawayo was not the place to be as it was giving a warning that another great heartbreak was brewing.
Two months later, after ‘Cricbae’ disappointed Zimbabweans, Heath Streak, a legend of the game, passed on at his family farm in Inyati, succumbing to cancer.
The nation lost a fighter who really took Zimbabwe cricket to higher levels with his all-rounder heroics.
He was an impeccable Ndebele speaker, loved agriculture, loved living in sunny Matabeleland and loved the game (MHDSRIP).
Prior to that, or just after the ICC World Cup qualifiers, the Zimbabwe Senior National Netball team, The Gems, went to the Netball World Cup in Cape Town.
Social media handlers were quick to jump to the ‘Netball Bae’ tag.
However, it was a total whitewash of The Gems by Australia in the first game that cast a spell of heavy doubt.
Barbados beat them next, although The Gems had beaten them in a warm up game prior to the World Cup.
The Gems finished 13 out of 16 with talk of massive politicisation of the game affecting Zimbabwean results.
That was another heartbreak!
Turning to the waters.
In July, the Donata Katai-led swimming team went to the championships in Australia but the water there seemed heavier than the water back home.
No-one came back with a medal.
Can we possibly say gone are the days of Kirsty Coventry?
As if that was not enough, in the exact same month, three Zimbabwean athletes went to Budapest at the tip of the massive River Danube and they all failed to impress.
Will the year end like this!
Cricket ace Raza is battling out with the likes of Victor Osimhen and Sadio Mane in the Africa’s Sports Personality-of-the-Year in the Africa’s Entertainment Awards to be held in the US soon.
The National Sports Stadium is back for domestic football starting with the Harare Derby (Dynamos vs CAPS United) to be held on Sunday.
The mighty Warriors, according to the ZIFA Normalisation Committee, will be in camp for the upcoming COSAFA Women’s Championships to be held in Gauteng Province, South Africa, in October.
There is still much more.
Perhaps there will be consolation or perhaps a last minute showdown — but the year is already coming to an end.
For now no more heartbreaks please!