Chipo Sabeta in London, United Kingdom
FORMER Zimbabwe Warriors and Liverpool goalkeeper, Bruce Grobbelaar has Zimbabwean football at heart.
This follows his timely ”marriage” with Team Zimbabwe UK aimed at supporting the Zimbabwe Diaspora Football Development Programme.
Under the new programme, the 65-year-old is expected to play a pivotal role in convincing some of the UK-born players who Team Zimbabwe invited to represent the country.
Not only is he committed towards unearthing new football gems in the UK, but he has also pledged to nurture new and raw talent under the programme.
Grobbelaar, who played as a goalkeeper most prominently for English team Liverpool between 1981 and 1994, and for the Warriors, was last weekend the guest of honour at a friendly match organised by Team Zimbabwe UK and The UK Colombian Community in preparation for the Inner-City World Cup to be held next month near East London Olympic part village.
“I am keen to help in the development of football in this country, especially in terms of nurturing young footballers.
“There is pride in representing the national team and for them to realise their dreams.
“Besides just promoting sports development is to ensure that we support many young Zimbabweans to achieve their desired purpose as sport can play a big role in helping build Zimbabwe as a tourist destination of choice,” he said.
Grobbelaar, who won the hearts of many between the sticks in the 80s and 90s through his theatrics, said it was high time national team selectors cast their nets wider when looking for players.
“There are many England-based players in this country and I believe the Warriors have the potential to develop into one of the giants in Africa and even to compete globally.”
Team Zimbabwe UK chief executive officer, Marshall Gore said the engagement with Grobbelaar will help in mobilise resources for the mentorship of young athletes and coaches.
Gore said the programme was in line with President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s vision to boost Brand Zimbabwe as a safe tourism destination and international community engagement.
“We were glad he (Grobbelaar) accepted our invitation and honoured to be the guest of the friendly match.
“We spoke at length with regards to our players dotted around the United Kingdom and how we can help identify and give exposure to sports.
“His career speaks for itself, and we really expect more enjoyments with other legends of that magnitude. I really want to applaud Bruce for his grounded nature despite his global fame,” he said.
Added Gore: “As a community organisation, one of our main objectives besides just promoting sports development Bruce is a global sporting brand who can market the country.
“The collaboration with Bruce will extend to partnership in developing grassroots football in Zimbabwe This will include holding football tournaments in Zimbabwe and a football Symposium.
“His presence will also support Team Zimbabwe to mobilise resources for the Diaspora Team and provide mentorship support to the coaches.”
Gore, who has been working with Zimbabwe Football Association officials and Warriors team manager Wellington Mpandare identifying Zimbabwean talent overseas, Grobbelaar’s engagement will inspire many of these youngsters
Until last year, Zimbabwe was not deliberately leveraging sport’s popularity to help with branding the nation as the best tourist attraction.
Sport has been playing a significant role in helping build Zimbabwe as a tourist destination of choice.
The ‘Visit Zimbabwe’ campaign began as an initiative between Zimbabwe Cricket and the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority through their parent ministries of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation and Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry.
As part of the initiative, the senior national cricket teams have been wearing branded merchandise inscribed, “Visit Zimbabwe a World of Wonders to popularise the country in major Test series and world events.
Former Springboks prop, Tendai “The Beast” Beast’ Mtawarira was last year named Tourism brand ambassador for Destination Zimbabwe by the Minister of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry.
France based footballer Tinotenda Kadewere is another top athlete with an endorsement and named Zimbabwe Tourism ambassador to advocate for the destination offerings.
Other legends who graced the occasion included Team Zimbabwe UK Technical Advisor Kennedy Chihuri, former Dynamos Captain Memory Mucherahohwa, Brian Nyabunze, Bestone Matabile, Obey Murefu, Kuda Zinhu and Mazala Bako.
Team Zimbabwe UK Chairman Wellington Muringai appreciated the gesture from Bruce. He is very confident that the former Zimbabwe goalminder will play a pivotal role in supporting full implementation of the Diaspora Football development plan which Team Zimbabwe has presented to Zifa Technical Director Wilson Mutekede last week.