HARARE – The Zambezi Cheetahs’ recent qualification for the 2018 Rugby World Cup Sevens finals to be held in San Francisco, United States has exposed the lack of support the government has for minority sports.
Zimbabwe Sevens side returned home last Sunday from a largely successful 2017 Africa Cup Sevens tournament in Kampala, Uganda where they reached the final but lost 10-7 to the hosts.
That second place finish in Kampala ensured that Gilbert Nyamutsamba and his charges will be part of the global showpiece in San Francisco next year.
The Zambezi Cheetahs will also be among the cast at the 2018 Hong Sevens Series tournament where qualification for core status on the lucrative World Rugby Sevens Series circuit will be up for grabs.
However, having been nowhere to be found during the Zambezi Cheetahs tough qualification journey, Sports minister Makhosini Hlongwane was quick to bask in the glory of the side’s heroics.
Only in August, the government through the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC) had suspended the Zimbabwe Rugby Union (ZRU)’s top leadership for allegedly putting the game into disrepute leaving only the chief executive Brighton Chivandire to run the union’s affairs.
It was not a well-calculated move as the decision was reached without considerable ground work to ensure that rugby administration would run smoothly without any repercussions.
An interim board was hastily set up to administer the ZRU affairs for the next six months but their reign suffered a still-birth.
The suspended board members led by vice president Nody Kanyangarara filed an application against their suspension with the Administrative Court.
As a result, the Administrative Court requested the SRC to furnish them with the finer details as to how they reached the conclusion to suspend the board.
This meant that until the matter is heard and judgment delivered by the court, all the new appointments will have to be put on ice.
As thing stands, rugby administration is in a comatose without a substantive board.
While there was no funding from the government, the Cheetahs managed to secure sponsorship from Delta Beverages through their Zambezi Lager brand.
Together with the players’ determination and sacrifices, the Zambezi Cheetahs were able to put in a good show in Kampala that resulted in the World Cup qualification.
The government was nowhere to be seen in ensuring the team was well-prepared to mount a challenge at the Africa Cup.
What is disappointing though is the fact that government and the SRC will be quick to chip in when it comes to sponsoring the senior men football team’s activities.
There is no denying that the Warriors have underachieved despite the abundance of football talent in this country with the side’s only success being three Africa Cup of Nations appearances since 1980.
Just before the 2017 Afcon tournament in Gabon, government facilitated a $1 million sponsorship for the Warriors.
In Gabon, the Warriors were the whipping boys of a tough Group B as they lost to Senegal, Tunisia and drew with Algeria to return home empty handed.
It will be a huge surprise if the same government will give the Zambezi Cheetahs a fraction of that same budget they availed to the Warriors before Rugby World Cup Sevens finals.
There is need for the government to get rid of this culture of treating other sports codes as inferior compared to football.