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Brazil's footballers make Zimbabwe smile again

Andrew Harding | 17:32 UK time, Wednesday, 2 June 2010

I have never seen so many smiles in Zimbabwe. From the lady at immigration to the minibuses packed with cheering football fans to the normally grim-faced intelligence officials guarding President Robert Mugabe as he strolled into the packed national sports stadium here in Harare on a sunny afternoon and greeted the visiting Brazilian team.
Zimbabweans outside the stadium in Harare

During the warm-up, Kaka waved to the crowd and was answered with a deafening roar from about 60,000 happy Zimbabweans who had each paid $10 for an experience for which almost everyone I've spoken to has described as a "dream" or a "once-in-a-lifetime" moment.

The World Cup may not have started yet, but you wouldn't know it from the giddy excitement here. After years of economic and political chaos very few Zimbabweans have the money to head across the border and experience the tournament kicking off in neighbouring South Africa next week. "This match is our World Cup" is something many people have told me today.

I'm writing this now on the touchline deafened by the roar of vuvuzelas with Zimbabwe's Warriors starting to flag after a very impress start. There's a man in a giant green and white eagle costume beside me, a slightly dysfunctional Mexican wave wandering around the stands, lots of adverts for the giant mining company Zimplats which is sponsoring the event, dozens of Brazilian journalists and a military brass band warming up for another performance.

It feels - at least today - like a refreshingly normal, happy country.

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  • 1. At 6:16pm on 02 Jun 2010, Sizwe M wrote:

    Apparently the Brazilian team created quite a storm when they appeared for dinner at a niche local shopping mall in Johannesburg's northern suburbs over last weekend. I had the honour of meeting Gomes, the Brazilian keeper on Saturday whilst he was wandering around Sandton City - it didn't take long before he was swarmed with mobile-phone camera happy local fans.. I can just imagine what the vibe must have been like in Zimbabwe given the recent trauma the country is experiencing.

    The atmosphere in SA is amazing right now and the support for Brazil I'd have to say is second only to South Africa's Bafana Bafana - particularly after their recent 5-nil win against Guatemala on Monday evening.

    I have quite a few Zim friends in South Africa and they will certainly be rooting for SA if not another African team to go into the final... this is certainly going to be a great event for Africa - let alone for just South Africa. I'm looking forward to the opening match next week!

    Sizwe

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  • 2. At 6:41pm on 02 Jun 2010, dennisjunior1 wrote:

    Andrew:

    That's positive news regarding people of Zimbabwe are smiling again with the Brazilian footballers in region...

    (d)

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  • 3. At 7:29pm on 02 Jun 2010, sagat4 wrote:

    Well done to Zimbabwe. They put Brazil to the sword and almost succeded. On this showing, it is not long before the appear in a majot tournament. As for Brazil, well they have a 50/50 chance of winning the cup but with Julio Cesar injured (excellent with Inter in the CL triumph) i don't see how they can stop the goals from going in

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  • 4. At 02:58am on 03 Jun 2010, bombfunkmc wrote:

    You'd Think Mugabe would have more important things to spend 10million on, rather than sponsoring a football match. I guess this is a carry over from his lavish birthday.

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  • 5. At 07:42am on 03 Jun 2010, mince_hilaire wrote:

    Will the Brazilian national team do pretty much anything for money then? I would have thought Kaka would have issues playing there. Playing for Mugabe's tainted (and scarce) foreign currency is disgusting. Surely they could have gone and played anywhere for a few quid.

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  • 6. At 07:57am on 03 Jun 2010, islect wrote:

    I'm glad Zimbaweans had the opportunity to experience a Zim vs Brazil match. Hardly anything that exciting happens in Zim, and given the economic and political turmoil people have had to experience for so long, it's a breath of fresh air to at least have such an event. One isn't sure if Mugabe sponsored the event or not, and as much as I dont support him, I support the smiles and excitement the match created for those who havent had that much fun in a while.

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  • 7. At 08:31am on 03 Jun 2010, Brian848 wrote:

    "You cannot play sport in an abnormal society...." Remember that. The paid Brazilian mercenaries are mocking the poor, just as much as the New Zealand rugby players did in the apartheid time, before the nation saw sense.

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  • 8. At 08:45am on 03 Jun 2010, BaronDuarte wrote:

    whatever the politics or the money, it's good to see Zimbabweans smiling, Brazil has put the smile on their faces!

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  • 9. At 09:03am on 03 Jun 2010, mince_hilaire wrote:

    yeah - i'm sure the average local had $10 to spend on a ticket (i'm assuming its USD as the local currency is worthless). either way, 60k x $10 meant that money came from somewhere - the peoples mouths.

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  • 10. At 09:16am on 03 Jun 2010, Michelle Summers wrote:

    The cup in South Africa is going to be great fun - can't wait for next week

    @Sizwe - hear you on the support for Brazil in South Africa.. quite uncanny actually.. funny to hear school kids on interviews saying they support Brazil rather than the local Bafana Bafana team!

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  • 11. At 09:20am on 03 Jun 2010, Stuttgart88 wrote:

    Having the Brazil team come to Zimbabwe could not be a better way of promoting the country as a safe and stable democracy as the Brazilian team with its hundreds of millions of euros worth of players would not risk going anywhere were they felt unsafe. Great advertisement for the country and putting them on the map again - albeit for the right reasons this time.

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  • 12. At 12:17pm on 03 Jun 2010, owboll wrote:

    Football aside, its good to see some good news on Zimbabwe. I hope this match promotes the country in a positive way and its a shame that only Brazil chose to come to Zimbabwe and nobody else. I think that way Brazil have won themselves so many Zim fans.

    Full time analysis

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  • 13. At 1:21pm on 03 Jun 2010, THEMBA wrote:

    This comment has been referred for further consideration. Explain

  • 14. At 1:32pm on 03 Jun 2010, THEMBA wrote:

    This comment has been referred for further consideration. Explain

  • 15. At 2:49pm on 03 Jun 2010, sunnysa wrote:

    For the people of Zimbabwe this would be one of those special moments in their lives. To the organisers well done for giving them that oppoutunity & a little bit of hope.

    Let the game begin - , let its be a tournament to remember for all the right reasons - A Proud South African

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  • 16. At 3:39pm on 03 Jun 2010, Blessing wrote:

    I think this was one of the the good opportunities that Zimbabwe needs as a country to show to the outside world that what is always being shown on the tvs, newspapers is not the actual situation on the ground. Zimbabwe like an other country it deserves to be treated farely. Zimbabwe has a lot of talent at least one can agree with me here. With the recent political changes, I really believe its just a matter of time, SO WAIT AND SEE, WHAT ZIM HAS TO OFFER ON THE INTERNATIONAL SCENE.

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  • 17. At 3:47pm on 03 Jun 2010, Blessing wrote:

    I think this was one of the good opportunity that Zimbabwe needs as a country. This is good so that people will see the true image of Zimbabwe not what is always shown on tv or written in newspapers. At least peaple can now appriciate that there is talent in Zimbabwe. THIS IS JUST THE BEGINNING WAIT AND SEE MORE THINGS FROM A BLESSEDE COUNTRY, ZIMBABWE.

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  • 18. At 3:47pm on 03 Jun 2010, Dan wrote:

    Sagat - Gomes is an octopus of a goalie, he will win them the WC

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  • 19. At 4:53pm on 03 Jun 2010, matchwinner wrote:

    Not sure it was a great idea by Brazil... Time will tell, but if it was the English team playing there I wouldn't have been happy.

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  • 20. At 6:21pm on 03 Jun 2010, LoveZim wrote:

    I do wonder at times whether those who are against Mugabe are really up against him or the nation of Zimbabwe, some of the comments on this blog are disappointing to say the least. Some people on this blog could do well to follow Kaka's lead and visit Zim rather than sticking to the ultra negative images that have built over the years. Oh and I almost forgot, to all you haters out there, here is a bit more fuel for your fires - India and Sri Lanka are playing cricket in Zim right now - and guess what Zim thrashed India today, I guess more smiles for Zimbos less so for you...

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  • 21. At 8:18pm on 03 Jun 2010, Emmanuel wrote:

    @matchwinner, why being racist? You still think Zim is bad hey, plaese if you have something about Mugabe attach it to him individually not to the whole nation.
    I was at National Sports Stadium to witness this historical day and thje atmosphere was so amazing. Its sad this day and age some people wish other teams wont visit some other countries. Every one from Brazil really enjoyed the occasion.
    THE BEST TEAM IN THE WORLD VISITED OUR COUNTRY, WHETHER ENGLAND, NEW ZEALAND O AUSTRALIA DONT COME DOESNT MATTER WORSE TGHEY ARE NOT GOOD TEAMS UNLIKE BRAZIL. WE HAD A FEEL OF THE WORLD CUP STILL

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  • 22. At 8:49pm on 03 Jun 2010, Dzvinyangoma wrote:

    Judging by matchwinner's comment, England do not deserve to host the world cup in 2018. They refused the Zimbabwe cricket team entry to take part in the 20/20 cricket last year. They can't be trusted to allow all countries who will have qualified to come to England. Their government interferes with international sport and I am even concerned about the olympics. Brazil did good for Zimbabwe and this has proven all the hatters wrong.

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  • 23. At 9:57pm on 03 Jun 2010, darkglass wrote:

    islect are you from zimbabwe or have you ever been there. well i have been to Zim i think i need some clarity when you say nothing exciting ever happens there. sure enough they has been some problems in that part of the world but if the truth is to be told zim still remains one of the best places the world over, at least they aint gross violence n crime like elsewhere.

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  • 24. At 01:19am on 04 Jun 2010, BLRBrazil wrote:

    To be fair to the Brazilians, they are quite adept at 'football diplomacy' and know that an exhibition game can bring some cheer to people in other countries who are suffering terrible hardship (Zimbabwe and Haiti being recent examples). I doubt that this was intended as a show of support for Mugabe, though we all know he never misses an opportunity to exalt himself. An examination of the finances behind the deal (who paid what to whom) would no doubt be revealing, but I doubt the players got anything more out of it than a chance to spread some joy in a place that has been sadly short of it for many decades.

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  • 25. At 2:18pm on 04 Jun 2010, JOE BLOGGS wrote:

    Good story, however I do not remember reading anything in the BBC about the threatened protests in Bulawayo a few weeks ago because his lordship invited the Koreans there.
    Feelings still run high over the gukurahandi affair run by North Krean-trained thugs.

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  • 26. At 5:37pm on 04 Jun 2010, Mr_houdini wrote:

    This match was very special to me and many other zimbabweans.This is probably the only occasion when Mugabe was in the National Sports Stadium and was not the star attraction. We all forgot about the limping economy and admired Kaka and crew. Will remember this for a long long time

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  • 27. At 7:19pm on 04 Jun 2010, FabianaTS wrote:

    I've heard a few times "How can people in Brazil smile that much having so many problems to face everyday?"
    Please don't think we don't care about those problems. But what I think happened in Zimbabwe is what we see here in Brazil: some joy when there are so many reasons to give up. Hope. Or simply some fun.
    I read a comment in this blog saying "the Brazilian team with its hundreds of millions of euros worth of players would not risk going anywhere were they felt unsafe". I have to say that most of our players came from areas in Brazil I bet some readers here would never risk to live in or even visit. Trust me when I say many of them have been to places really violent and extremely poor, and I agree much more with the comment that talks about "football diplomacy".
    I imagine Mugabe wanted that match to promote Zimbabwe in many ways and found a good opportunity to promote himself too. But I also imagine - from what I see here everyday - that those people deserved some joy. Even for one day. And I don't think they thank Mugabe for that.

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  • 28. At 9:34pm on 04 Jun 2010, Elizabeth Kuranchie-Mensah wrote:

    The Zimbabweans really had a nice time!They should have invited me to share my happiness with them.Then they should continue to smile big because "smiling" is a healer and i hope they will support their neighbours in good faith!

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