Zimbabwean sports have come a long way to get to a stage of continental recognition in a couple of disciplines as well as global attention in a few as local sports personalities continue to shine on the international stage.
Current examples to buttress this point abound.
Young female motocross sensation, Tanya Muzinda, is eyeing to emulate swimming icon Kirsty Coventry after scooping gold at the recently held African Union Sports Council Region Five Regional Annual Sports Awards.
Coventry herself, was crowned SportsWoman of the Year at the inaugural regional awards in 2016.
At just 13 years, Muzinda has also won national awards among them the 2017 Junior Sportswoman of the Year, which was largely due to her exploits at the British National Championships in the United Kingdom where she scooped bronze.
She has already had a documentary featured on the BBC children’s channel in the UK, one of the most popular children’s channels in the UK and across Europe with a daily viewership of about 300 000.
But the question is, is Zimbabwe ready to capitalise on these sporting exploits?
Can the country successfully market itself globally through sports personalities like Muzinda?
Elsewhere in the world, sport is no longer just a pastime, but is now a powerful marketing tool communicating global messages through their universal passions.
Professional athletes have an undeniable influence on the image of the sporting discipline.
According to Muzinda’s father and trainer, Tawanda, the journey has been tough and still is as he has had to shoulder much of the costs and expenses to fulfil his daughter’s dreams, despite the international prominence she has cast on the country.
“We are grateful to God for taking us this far,” Muzinda said in an interview.
“It has been a great journey, a tough one at times but we remain hopeful. She has done well, for herself and the country so far. We have a long way to go and many people have been helpful. We pray for more friends to give us a shoulder along the way,’’ he said.
It’s unimaginable that a teenager who has done so well on the international stage for herself and her country is still hoping for brighter days.
Tourism, is one of the key pillars of this country’s economy and authorities can quickly make good of the sector’s revival prospects as enunciated by President Mnangagwa by tapping into the international appeal that a star like Tanya has.
The arrangement could be very much mutually beneficial. It can help her with her needs and increase her focus on achieving more glory while at the same time boost the country already rising tourist arrivals as well as the much needed receipts.
It won’t be unique to Zimbabwe, other third world countries like Brazil have capitalised on their football brilliance to lure tourists.
Rwanda just recently, have bought space on English Premiership side Arsenal as they seek to promote brand Rwanda and have poured in a whopping £30 million in that endeavour.
The push for them, is the bigger picture, the country stands to benefit more from utilising the appeal of sport.
Muzinda is not an exception, professional racer, Axcil Jefferies is also in the same breadth.
Jefferies is a world sensation and currently rated among the best 30 drivers in the world
and is angling to become the first African driver to make it on to the famed Formula 1 starting grid since 1993.
He has already made history when he became the first Zimbabwean and African to test in modern day Formula One. In 2015, he hogged the limelight on the track of late, when invited by an F1 team to test two different F1 machines and he drove a Jaguar V8 F1 car and Arrows V10 F1 car.
He continues to shine before international audiences in places like Italy, England, Dubai, South Africa among many. While Zimbabwe continues to lag behind, global sports market is now estimated to be worth $700 billion and is growing more rapidly than global GDP.
Sports and Recreation Commission corporate communications officer Tirivashe Nheweyembwa, said they are aware of such athletes but bemoaned lack of funding and resources.
“Ideally, we are supposed to be supporting them financially, however, due to the fact that we are also financially crippled we are willing to work with their managers so that we may be in a position to lure sponsors for them.
“It is our firm belief that they are our good ambassadors for the nation and as such they must be supported in every way possible and whatever they are doing augurs very well for the country and they are promoting Brand Zimbabwe,” Nheweyembwa said.
Several other examples abound world Karate Samson Muripo continues his trailblasing exploits but has the country made good of this talent?
A fortnight ago, body-builder, Paul Goredema came fifth in the pro-elite line up in the senior men body-building division at IFBB Arnold Classic Africa placing Zimbabwe among the best in the region and on the continent in Body-building, but what has become of it?
Early this year, seven Olympic medallist Coventry was appointed as the Chairperson of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Athletes’ Commission, what became of it in terms of uplifting brand Zimbabwe?