The drama surrounding the Warriors legends’ high-profile game against World legends match continues to unfold, with fresh details emerging to further throw the exhibition match in doubt, SportBrief can reveal.
By Tongai Mwenje and Carlo Chikomba
The high profile exhibition match, which is being organised by the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) in conjunction with World Class Legends, was set to see some of the world’s revered football legends in the likes of Ryan Giggs and Jay Jay Okocha square off against our very own Warriors Legends.
The match was supposed to take place on Friday, however, the organisers held a press conference on that very day to announce that the game had been postponed to the 16th of June.
Zimbabwe Tourism Authority’s Chief Executive Officer Karikoga Kaseke, confirmed that the postponement was a result of the match’s chief sponsor delaying in availing the funds for the event.
The sudden turn of events prompted this publication to dig deeper on the real issues behind the last minute cancellation of the match.
The investigation carried by SportBrief revealed a different story.
A source which preferred anonymity told this publication that the chief sponsor was never a South African based businessman, as purported by the ZTA boss in his response to journalists at a press conference held in the capital on Friday.
“We have secured the money to host the match via a donor who is based in South Africa, unfortunately I cannot disclose his name,” Kaseke was quoted by this publication during the press briefing.
In response to Kaseke’s statement, the source said, “Was this the one being organized by Zimbabwe Tourism Authority ? Because if it’s the one then the sponsor was Treasury not a South African businessman.”
“What I picked is that Treasury promised to fund them however that is doubtful given where we are economically and also the last match had issues financially because to this date nobody knows what was given to the organizers,” the source revealed.
The source added that after the organisers realised that the chief sponsor (Treasury) was not in a position to fund the match as previously agreed, turned to a businessman based outside the country, who apparently has gone quite, casting doubt on the match availability, “I am told somebody had promised to pay the Legends but it’s now not certain coz the person has gone quite and obviously at this stage Treasury does not have money to fund such an adventure,” the source told this publication.
The last match that was being referred to was the one that was held last year where the Warriors Legends took on a Barcelona Legends side which featured the likes of Rivaldo, Patrick Kluivert and Edmilson under the old dispensation.
The match which ended in a 2 all draw attracted a sell-out crowd that was treated to some entertaining football at the National Sports Stadium. The non competitive football match, cheered the spirits of thousands of fans in particular the young generation, which had the privilege to watch their yester-year heroes in action.
“But when I say the organizers I mean the then Ministry of Sport, Arts and Recreation which was led by none other than Makhosini Hlongwane,” said the source.
The source also went on to add that the reluctance of the Treasury in availing the funds for the exhibition match may be the reason why the organisers are saying the ‘mystery donor’ haven’t released the funds.
“So the funds may not have been acquitted so the donor (Treasury) as it were may not be too willingly to fund this adventure.”
The match which is focused on promoting tourism through sports under the popular mantra, Zimbabwe is open for Business is reported to gulp more than US$2 million in appearance fees for the World Legends.
“Zimbabwe will fork out €1,95 million (US$2.3m) to host a group of high profile European soccer legends in the country as part of the sports tourism initiative to market the country as a safe destination,” another source revealed the amount to be spent on Giggs and team.
Former Real Madrid and Brazil defender Roberto Carlos, ex-Manchester United winger Ryan Giggs, Nigerian legend Austin Jay Jay Okocha, France and Arsenal legend Robert Pires, former Barcelona captain Carlos Puyol, ex-Brazil hitman Julio Baptista are among a host of big names that used to grace European football expected to make up the World Class Legends side.
The move has been received with criticisms, with some sports analysts and administration saying it was a waste of resources bringing spent force to play our local legends. The argument was that it would made sense to bring a World Cup bound team to play our current Warriors as in the 2010 World Cup case where Brazil played the then current Warriors.
“Why do you bring the likes of Giggs for US$2 million? Guys are you out of your mind? How will they market Zim?” one of the local football analysts posted on his Facebook page.
It still remains to be seen if this high profile encounter will take place at all, the latest development could casts a big shade on the dealings of the ZTA over this exhibition match as it reveals their lack of openness with regards to the status of the event.