BY MICHAEL KARIATI
PASSING through Warren Park Recreational Community Centre in Harare, one feels the pain of how Zimbabwean sport has been destroyed through neglect of sporting facilities.
What should have been a thriving recreation facility for sports including football, netball and basketball, has been hacked to pieces and allowed to rot by the City of Harare.
Only last week, a child was seriously injured when one of the supporting poles of the basketball posts fell over him while the sports hall itself has been turned into a venue for functions and churches.
What hurts the most is that the area intended for sports development has now been parcelled out into small size maize fields for nearby homes and church business.
Imagine what would have been the case had the basketball courts been fully functional — and for that matter — hosting a tournament and a church service just 50 metres away.
As if this were not enough, the football ground that children used close by now looks like a farming field with grass that has not been cut in a long time.
While the ground for older ages is being upgraded, it is the one that school kids use especially on weekends that is developing into a danger for future Zimbabwe national team players.
In fact, sewerage waste has also been directed from somewhere to flow through the ground where the children play.
What is happening in Warren Park is synonymous with what is happening all over Zimbabwe where sports facilities that were constructed for use in the past have been neglected and allowed to rot.
For example, the only action that takes place at the tennis and basketball courts in Rimuka, Kadoma, is that of people passing by using the footpaths which have developed all over the courts.
In the past, these tennis and basketball courts were manned by town council employees and protected by a fence and maintained regularly after use. The general belief when it comes to football is that Zifa have killed the game but they are not alone as government, city and town council authorities all over have also been found wanting.
It should be noted that Harare now has one top football stadium, which is the National Sports Stadium as both Gwanzura and Rufaro Stadium are no longer fit for use for top-flight football.
In fact, at one time Gwanzura was turned into a maize and sweet potato field by the residents while Harare City Council stood by and watched.
A picture of the current state of Rufaro Stadium which has been circulating on social media does not make good spectacle for those who love the game of football.
What is worrying is that at the rate things are going, Zimbabwe might soon run out of sports facilities in towns and cities which will kill sport completely and push children into crime and drugs.
Surely, a serious sports nation like Zimbabwe should not be seen to be operating without up-to-standard sports facilities in the community that its own people live in.
What is disturbing is that the city authorities continue to collect rentals for use of buildings constructed at most sports complexes but do not take their time to improve the facilities there.
The country is slowly losing these sports facilities which hosted community sports and football youth clubs which in turn helped to nurture and develop talent.
It is from these youth clubs in areas like Glen Norah, Mufakose, Highfields, Mbare, Magwegwe, Mzilikazi, Mabvuku and others, where some of Zimbabwe’s greatest sportsmen came from.
Zimbabwe surely needs to restore that community-based conveyor belt of talent which was supported by facilities provided by their city and town councils
Zimbabwe desperately needs that conveyor belt of talent that started from the Under 12s, the Under 14s, going upwards to the Under 23s, and finally to graduation time to senior-level competition
It is from these youth clubs that the likes of Arifonso Zvenyika first took to boxing at an early age at the Mbare Sports Complex before becoming a Commonwealth champion in the flyweight division.
It is also from a youth club in Gweru that the great Langton Schoolboy Tinago rose from to win the Commonwealth title three times and for that matter at three different weight divisions.
The truth is that Zimbabwean sport has gone down drastically not because the country does not have talent but because there is not much interest from the young generation because the facilities they should be using as a starting point have either been abandoned or completely destroyed.
The ideal situation should be to give first priority to sports facility upgrade before dreaming of international success in any sporting field — There surely is no sporting success where the facilities are second or third grade or not available at all.
By the way, Zimbabwe should also not forget that the National Sports Stadium, has in the meantime, been declared not good enough to host international football matches.
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