In Ghana and Zaire, government intervention in the football realm resulted in some form of progress on a national and global scale (even if state autocratic tendencies remained present). In Zimbabwe, however, no progress was truly achieved despite its dictators tight control.

When Saturday Comes, a football magazine based in Europe, noted that in Zimbabwe, “the domestic game…is in deep crisis, and one family is held responsible: the Mugabes – Robert for crippling the country’s economy, and his nephew Leo for turning football into an extension of his uncle’s political agenda.”[1]

Robert remains president of Zimbabwe to this day, but thankfully his nephew Leo was fired from his position as football head of Zimbabwe in 2003. In 2007, Jonathan Mashingaidze was also fired from Zimbabwe’s top football job on similar corruption charges. At a match between Kenya and Zimbabwe, nearly 40,000 Kenya supporters used the match as a political forum to chant, “Mugabe must go.”[2]

Politics aside, Zimbabwe lacks football success. They’ve never qualified for a World Cup, and only recently did Zimbabwe qualify for the African Nation’s Cup in 2004 and 2006. Unfortunately, they were cut after the first round in both tournaments. [3] If a team is not behind it’s country’s leader, why should they bring the nation, and the dictator, glory on the pitch?


The Zimbabwe National Team as of 2013; the Warriors


FIFA took much heat in November 2009 for allowing Robert Mugabe to pose with the World Cup trophy while touring all 53 African nations. Both sides took this as an opportunity to bring football back into the discussion of African politics. Mugabe, upon lifting the Cup, said: “Britain does not have any gold, and neither does Germany… I am tempted to think that it came from Africa, and from Zimbabwe, and was taken away by adventurers and shaped into this cup…I should not let it go because this could be our gold.” However, opposition groups clung to this moment in order to draw attention to Mugabe’s destructive legacy. Raymond Majongwe, the secretary general of the Progressive Teacher’s Union of Zimbabwe chastised FIFA, saying that “They could have sent a political message by keeping it away from Zimbabwe. But with this, Mugabe was able to say that the World Cup will come and go and he will still be there.” [4] Read the full article about the incident here.


Robert Mugabe raises the World Cup trophy as it passed through Zimbabwe on its tour of Africa, angering many human rights groups.

Robert Mugabe raises the World Cup trophy as it passed through Zimbabwe on its tour of Africa, angering  human rights groups and Zimbabwe citizens.


Despite the machinations of Robert and Leo, the sport has also taken on a more grassroots political nature in Zimbabwe, and in 2006, the Uhuru Network, a group of community youth fighting for social justice, organized an impromptu, symbolic soccer tournament in the streets of Harare. Two teams, one representing the good “residents,” and the others the evil “local council,” battled for the ideals that the “residents” were sent to represent, in response to recent violence exacted by the Zimbabwe police on trade-union activists.[5] This incident has little to do with football on a international scale, but that football is the chosen vehicle that activists are using to ignite social change shows its importance as part of the life ordinary Zimbabwean, and that the sport has not been corrupted to the point of no return by the government. The following YouTube video further illustrates such activism, blending the nation’s love of soccer with the fight against AIDS.



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[1] de Castella, Tom. (2003, February). Mugabe Family Values. When Saturday Comes, (192), Retrieved from http://www.wsc.co.uk/content/view/2591/29/

[2] Guma, Lance. (2008, June 18). Kenyan Football Fans Chant “Mugabe Must Go”. SW Radio Africa, Retrieved from http://allafrica.com/stories/200806181159

[3] Mungazi, Farayi. (2004, January 25). Zimbabwe 1-2 Egypt. BBC Sport Online, Retrieved from news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/football/africa/3426337.stm

[4] http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/nov/27/robert-mugabe-holds-world-cup

[5] SchNews. (2006, October 6). “I Did it My Zimbabwe: Strikes, Striking and Strikers in Mugabe’s Zimbabwe.” SchNews, (563), Retrieved from http://www.schnews.org.uk/archive/pdf/news563.pdf

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