By Eddie Chikamhi
ZIFA are wooing former Warriors captain Peter Ndlovu and Benjani Mwaruwari to be part of the high-profile names that will grace the exhibition match between a Zimbabwe side and the Barcelona Legends next week.
The organisers yesterday confirmed the match will be played during the FIFA break on Sunday, November 12, at the National Sports Stadium.
ZIFA president Philip Chiyangwa yesterday said to spice up the match, the Association has decided to turn to some of its illustrious yesteryear sons who will be blended with a crop of young players. The match will come just a day after the Warriors had completed their two international friendlies against Lesotho and Namibia scheduled for next Wednesday and Saturday.
Chiyangwa said the likes of Ndlovu, Mwaruwari and other former players will be considered for the Legends match if they are available after the Barcelona Legends representative Rayco Garcia had hinted some big names like Deco, Eric Abidal, Edgar Davids, Rivaldo, Francesco Coco, Edmilson, Gaizka Mendieta, Gianluca Zamborotta, goalkeeper Jesus Angoy and Patrick Kluivert who will captain the Catalan legends, had confirmed the trip to Harare.
“I do realise that Barcelona Legends are mouthful. Zimbabwe also has got legends, the likes of Peter Ndlovu, Benjani Mwaruwari and others who I have decided that I may have to put in this team that will meet yours because of their history. I think this will make it more exciting. So we are looking at the possibility because we are not using the players that are going to play in the friendly matches against Lesotho and Namibia. We want the Zimbabweans to see a very interesting match on the day. We will try to make it very exciting. We will give you more details about who is coming when we have spoken to them,” said Chiyangwa.
The organisers of the match, the Ministry of Sport, Arts, and Culture confirmed at a press conference yesterday that the Barcelona Legends are expected to arrive in the country on November 11 and then play the match the following day.
The Legends will conclude their tour by visiting the majestic Victoria Falls on November 13 accompanied by officials from the Ministry of Sport and the Ministry of Tourism and Hospitality Industry.
In the build-up to the match, some of the legends — Rivaldo, Kluivert and Davids — have visited Zimbabwe in the previous months and were excited by the hospitality they received.
Their representative, Garcia, said besides the opportunities for football cooperation between Zimbabwe and the Spanish giants, the exhibition match is also crucial to market Zimbabwe as a destination of choice for tourists and investors.
“I think this is not a simple match. It’s going to be an exhibition match. We would want to exhibit Zimbabwe around the world. I want to use our players, I want to use the brand of Barcelona to expose the opportunities. This is a wonderful land, it’s a place where people can visit and enjoy. This is a country to invest.
“Many people don’t have much information and we think through this match internationally it’s going to help spread more information about Zimbabwe. “We have already confirmed a list of players with names like Edmilson, Davids, Kluivert is the captain, Rivaldo, Mendieta, Zambrotta, Giuly. We are making sure we bring a very good list of players. The idea is to create a good spectacle. I suggest that all the football fans come to watch and enjoy the match.
“We would want to make Sunday 12 November a party that you will enjoy and also get the chance to see these stars. Of course they are retired but they are still fit. Maybe you never got the opportunity to go to Europe and see them closely. All our players are very happy to be coming to this country for the first time and we hope that you will enjoy this match,” said Garcia.
The former Spanish footballer, who facilitated Zambia Under-20 team’s training camp in Spain before returning home to win the AFCON Under-20 crown earlier this year, said the match is a door for long term cooperation between Zimbabwe and the Spanish giants in terms of development and laying contacts with Europe.
Minister of Sport, Recreation, Arts and Culture Makhosini Hlongwane was upbeat about the long-term benefits of the visit by the Barcelona Legends.
“Chiyangwa and Rayco have developed strong relationship in the past few weeks and in our meeting last night (Wednesday) it was very clear that there is a lot more work that has to be done beyond the match and that’s between the two of them now to work on the various other programmes that come as benefits that accrue out of this kind of match,” said Hlongwane. The Herald