“IMPRESSIVE, simply amazing,” these were the words echoed by Dutch football legend Patrick Kluivert moments after he and another great, compatriot Edgar Davids as well as Spanish football Rayco Garcia met the iconic President Mugabe at the Jahunda Community Information Centre in Gwanda, Matabeleland South yesterday.
The three stars jetted into the country on Thursday evening as special guests of the Minister of Sport and Recreation, Makhosini Hlongwane who said the coming in of the three retired stars was part of ways of reconstructing the country’s image after more than two decades of battering by the international community.
The trio, said Minister Hlongwane will also be back in November together with other Barcelona legends to play against the Warriors at the National Sports Stadium.
Kluivert, whose 1995 Uefa champions League final winning goal against AC Milan while still a teenager turning out for European giants Ajax Amsterdam of Holland propelled him into a global football icon, said he was also surprised by President Mugabe’s knowledge of Barcelona.
The former Dutch international spent six years with the Catalan giants where he formed a deadly attacking combination with Brazilian great Rivaldo and scored an incredible 124 goals in 249 appearances.
“He (President Mugabe) knows Barcelona actually and it was very nice meeting him for the first time, a very special moment meeting His Excellency President Mugabe and my first words to him where ‘Your Excellency’,” said Kluivert.
Davids, who featured for Barcelona, Juventus, Inter Milan, Tottenham as well as Ajax Amsterdam could not hide his excitement and also took pictures of President Mugabe standing alongside Kluivert.
Speaking in an impromptu interview with ZiFM Radio at the Jahunda Centre yesterday, Garcia said they were in Zimbabwe to help market the country and also bring in some projects.
“My other big task is to bring in Barcelona legends to Zimbabwe that is the likes of Rivaldo, Ronaldinho, Puyol as well as these two guys already here,” said Garcia.
Minister Hlongwane said the trio was in the country under the sports diplomacy programme because of their huge following on the global stage and they were also coming due to their admiration of President Mugabe’s philosophy which is in sync with the values of sports.
“These guys have 400 million followers on social media.
“They are coming as the Minister’s guests, bringing jerseys for the President and the First Lady in admiration of the President’s leadership qualities and values which intersect with sports principles which is fairness, tolerance, competition, rules, competing with integrity and dignity which the President represents in the philosophy of Mugabeism.
“You find all those values expressing themselves in sports. They are also here under the sports diplomacy programme as stipulated in our National Sports and Recreation Policy document in which we seek to develop the image of the country by doing many things including deploying our sports administrators in various positions across the world but also to bring high flying global superstars into Zimbabwe.
“For example, in the first week of September there will be other stars coming as part of promoting the November event and this is happening under our sports diplomacy programme,” said Hlongwane.