Blessings Chidakwa-Sports Reporter
PRESIDENT Mnangagwa has said the increased tempo in Covid-19 vaccine uptake should see the country’s sporting activities, that have largely been on hold since the pandemic struck returning to their normal schedules soon.
The Government, the President said, will also play its part to ensuring greater support to sport once the threat posed by the Covid-19 pandemic,is over.
Only specific international assignments, for a small number of the country’s sports codes, are being given the greenlight to be held, as part of efforts, to combat the spread of Covid-19.
These codes include football, which has been given a waiver to host the 2022 World Cup qualifying showdown between Zimbabwe and South Africa set for the National Sports Stadium, next Friday.
The domestic Premiership, though, remains on hold since authorities halted the Chibuku Super Cup after the first round of matches in the wake of a spike in Covid-19 infections.
The enforcement of a Level 4 lockdown to deal with the emergency brought the country’s biggest knockout football tournament,to a halt.
Yesterday, President Mnangagwa opened a window of hope for the resumption of sporting activities in the country as he mourned the death of iconic footballer, George Shaya.
The five-time Soccer Star of the Year, widely regarded as the finest football star to emerge in this country, died in Harare on Tuesday after a long battle against diabetes.
Shaya will be given a State-assisted funeral in recognition of his role as an influential football superstar who left a big impression on the domestic football scene.
For about a decade he was the face of local football, inspiring millions of players and fans with his brilliance.
‘’As we mourn our late football icon, George Shaya, I urge our youths across sporting disciplines to strive to excel, in order to put Zimbabwe on the world sporting map,’’ the President said.
‘’In the same vein, I urge our sports administrators, again across disciplines, to do no led so our young men, and women, are facilitated to self-actualise in their chosen field of play.
“Government will play its part in ensuring greater support is availed to sport once the Covid-19 pandemic is behind us. The increased tempo in vaccine uptake should see us going back to normal sporting before long.
“On behalf of Government, and on my own behalf, I wish to express my deepest, heartfelt condolences to the Shaya family for losing their father, guardian and mentor. He remains our icon together.
“In honour and tribute to this great sporting son of Zimbabwe, I have directed Government to accord the late George Shaya a state-assisted funeral. This means costs towards his interment will be met by Government.’’
President Mnangagwa described Shaya as an exceptional football star and a leader whose star shone on and off the field, who turned into an oasis of hope for the oppressed majority black people of this country.
The iconic footballer transformed himself into the heart and soul of Dynamos, whose formation in 1963 was meant to provide black Zimbabweans with a football club that represented their interests at a time of racial divisions.
Known as the Glamour Boys, Dynamos were established to try and challenge the dominant football clubs of that era, which were dominated by white footballers, and became a symbol of resistance against the minority rulers. By taking on these established clubs, and beating them, as Dynamos did, in winning the league championship in 1963, they sent the powerful message the blacks were not an inferior group, to their white counterparts.
“The death on Tuesday of our renowned football star, George Shaya, after a long fight against diabetes, saddened me immensely,’’ the President said.
“A great player, mentor and leader both on and off the field of play, the late Cde Shaya achieved the rare feat of becoming a five-time Soccer Star of the Year in the then racist Rhodesia where everything, including sport, was run along racial lines.
“Yet, he beat that artificial impairment, not once, not twice, but five clear times to become a soccer legend, for all the times.
“For the oppressed, and racially discriminated black indigenes, he thus became a symbol of defiant victory, through sport.
“Our nation will forever remember him for that psychological lift he gave our people, as they struggled to dismantle the myth of white superiority, in the then settler Rhodesia.
“As many will recall, then, even stadia became sites of quiet resistance, with many nationalists using popular sports, and arts, like football and music, to mobilise for our struggle.’’
On Wednesday, Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation Minister, Kirsty Coventry, said Shaya’s death was a huge blow to the whole country. “First of all, I would like to convey my heartfelt condolences to the Shaya family, following the passing on of the great George Shaya,” said Coventry.
“He is one of the greatest sportspersons to have emerged from this country. His death is not only a blow to the Shaya family, but to Zimbabwe, as a whole.
“The history of the game will be amiss without the mention of his name.”
Coventry was in the company of her deputy, Tino Machakaire, when she paid her condolences to the Shaya family at their home in Glen Norah, Harare.