By Byron Mutingwende
Sport tourism is one of the best ways to market a country and the ministry of tourism and the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) are collaborating with World Class Legends to use football to spearhead that initiative.
Introducing the World Class Legends to President Emmerson Mnangwagwa during the ruling party Zanu PF’s campaign launch at the Harare International Conference Centre, Dr. Karikoga Kaseka, the ZTA Chief Executive said the visit was a component of Sport Tourism initiative to promote Brand Zimbabwe.
“These legends are in the country to promote Brand Zimbabwe. Football is a vehicle to promote peace and unity for development. For a long time Zimbabwe has been wrongly vilified on the international scene. Now to endorse the new administration, the legends are here to show solidarity with us and are donating balls and some jerseys to his Excellency President Mnangagwa and Vice President Constantino Chiwenga,” Dr. Kaseke said to applause from the delegates.
Speaking at a press conference soon after their courtesy call on the Presidium, former Brazil and Real Madrid forward Julio Baptista said he was happy to be in the country for the second time and promised to market Zimbabwe as a safe tourist destination.
“Zimbabwe is an incredible country and has vast opportunities for global engagement on the economic and tourism fronts. Sport tourism is an important vehicle for development. We will use our football skills and experience to improve children’s soccer talents,” Baptista said.
The World Class Legends Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Rayco Garcia revealed that the legends would come have a match on the 8th of June 2018 so as to promote Zimbabwe internationally.
“Zimbabwe didn’t have a good name internationally over the last 17 years or so. When I visited the country for the first time last year, I realised it is safe and secure for tourists and investors. We will use football to market the country internationally and re-open it for business,” Garcia said.
The match against Zimbabwe would be broadcasted on channels like Barcelona TV and Real Madrid TV. The footballers and their multitudes of fans would also use social media to market the match and about 1 billion people would be reached.
Antonio Correra Barradas, the President of La Liga promised to bring former players for top European football leagues to train trainers of school-going soccer players.
“Training the trainers is the basis for football development. We will groom some young Zimbawean soccer players to be able to play football in Spain. We will support the project to make the realisation of that project a reality. The project mainly targets the underprivileged. With sport at the forefront, we are hopeful; that things will change for the best in Zimbabwe,” Barradas said.
Priscah Mupfumira, the minister of tourism and hospitality industry reiterated the mantra that Zimbabwe is open for business and is one of the few countries with pristine tourist attractions like the Victoria Falls, the Eastern Highlands and Chinhoyi Caves, just to mention a few.
“We are happy that we are being accepted internationally through our re-engagement efforts. As the tourism sector, we will do our best to ensure that the match on the 8th of June 2018 will be a huge success. I urge the football legends here present to be our ambassadors in driving Brand Zimbabwe,” Mupfumira said.
The World Class Legends and the ZTA capped off the ceremony by signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to aperationalise the agreement.