Mamhiyo recalls feeling the same way last year. That game just knocked us out. Even though we had already won the One-Day match against Australia, the win against Pakistan made us realize that this team could go far. They are very good. We have to remember that these are the same players we had three years ago. Something about them has changed.
But let’s take off our cricket glasses to take a broader view. In the background of the Harare Sports Club and a four-minute walk away is the State House. It might be the perfect backdrop for the bigger picture in a country where inflation is off the charts and crucial elections are coming up in a month. Ahead of the World Cup qualifiers, there has been riots in the capital. It was at this time–the last couple of weeks–that cricket became a relaxing outlet for locals.
It was a place to come and be able to forget about any other problems. Not just inflation. Just life’s problems in general. 100 overs of good cricket and you could just relax before coming back the next day and starting all over again. That wasn’t always the case, however. Like the rest of the continent, soccer has traditionally been the most popular sport in Zimbabwe. But the resurgence of the men’s national cricket team, combined with FIFA’s suspension, has led to cricket becoming the number one national sport, says Mamhiyo. When you look at the nationalnot just a case of you supporting any random person. For example, players such as BlassIng Muzarabani, Richard Ngarawa and Wellington Pedzisai Masakadza come from Highfield, one of the largest suburbs of Harare, which was established for the settlement of blacks during colonial Rhodesia.
Thanks CS Zimbabwe for this. They invested for 20 years in areas that were not particularly involved in cricket, creating many programs in rural areas. They installed concrete fields to try to bring the game to people in remote areas, Mamhiyo says.
There was a reciprocal attitude toward diversity on the national team as well, and those who support it. Ten years since its inception, a total of 200 people have joined the fans’ union, which pays for a monthly season ticket that pays for their trips to games — like the 90 people who traveled from all over the country to Bulawayo for last Sunday’s game against Sri Lanka. Some came from top schools in Zimbabwe, some play the sport, some have never played it, and some are still just learning.
It sure was a lively couple of weeks in the South African country. Filled bleachers with fans from all walks of life singing in the local Shona and Ndebele languages. One chant stands out. Zimbabwe iTeam yedu. Zora butter unyemwerere. Kanandafa ndoenda ndega, pahukama. Mamhiyo translates this into Indian Express: Zimbabwe is our team. Distribute