Ishemunyoro Chingwere Business Writer
With Zimbabwe scheduled to go for harmonised elections in July this year, communities are assured of an increase in sporting activities as politicians tap into the power of sports to reach out to the electorate and get the much needed acceptance.
There is something compelling about sports, which makes it the go to activity for politicians and the trend is not unique to Zimbabwe. History is also awash with successful former sports-people who used the sport ladder to attain their political ambitions.
International examples include former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi who during his time as head of Government also doubled as owner of seven time European champions AC Milan, Liberian President George Weah who ascended to his country’s highest offices largely due to his previous exploits in sport and several others immediately come to mind.
Locally, sports tournaments named or sponsored by public office aspirants tend to mushroom more during election season and the 2018 general election season has not been an exception.
Former president, Robert Mugabe, also used the power of sport through such tournaments as the Bob Super Cups for football and basketball, which were held annually in honour of his birthday.
In his published journal, International Review for the sociology of sport, Midlands State University lecturer Dr Lyton Ncube writes that sport and politics have an intimate relationship that has endured the test of time.
“Sport in general, and football in particular, has enjoyed an intimate relationship with politics seemingly since time immemorial,” writes Dr Ncube.
“Crucially, it has been argued that if ever there was a ‘perfect marriage’, one would be hard pressed to find a more compatible couple than sport and politics,” says Dr Ncube in one of his articles on sports and politics.
The ruling Zanu-PF, which is in the process of finalising its general candidates list has already seen serving football administrators making it through the revolutionary party’s internal selection process and will be on the ballot come election time.
Current Zimbabwe Football Association (ZIFA) president Philip Chiyangwa and his deputy Omega Sibanda will be running for National House of Assembly seats for Zvimba South and Vungu constituency, respectively.
Sports has over the years grown into a massive economic player in the world earning sports personalities and administrators billions of dollars but the growth has not been correspondingly doing the same in Zimbabwe where it remains a pass time.
It is hoped is that the continued local flirtation between sports and administration will soon lead to the growth of the industry.
Government has already shown its keenness by appointing a Minister of Sports and hope is Zimbabwe will soon join countries like Brazil, Argentina and Nigeria who continue to reap considerably from the industry.
According to Forbes magazine, the industry for example in North America alone, is set to grow to a staggering $73, 5 billion by 2019.
“The sports market in North America was worth $60,5 billion in 2014. It is expected to reach $73,5 billion by 2019,” notes Forbes.
“The biggest reason for such growth is projected increases in revenue derived from media rights deals, which is predicted to surpass gate revenues as the sports industry’s largest segment.”