Robert Mugabe resigned as president of Zimbabwe on Tuesday, bringing an end to 37 years of his rule and sparking jubilant celebrations on the nation’s streets.
While many viewed Mugabe as a dictator, there was a side of him that was not known by many, that of a football fan.
Phakaaathi lists five football-related things you didn’t know about Mugabe.
1. PSL feels Mugabe’s resignation
Just a few hours after Robert Mugabe stepped down as Zimbabwe president, Mamelodi Sundowns’ attacking midfielder, Khama Billiat, scored a brace for the Brazilians in the 2-0 win over Bidvest Wits.
Many football followers felt that with this brace, Billiat was celebrating Mugabe’s fall from grace. Asked how he felt about the situation in Zimbabwe, Billiat said he was celebrating with his countrymen. “I don’t really like to talk about politics, but it is a relief when the whole nation is happy. It’s been a long time since we celebrated together,” the speedy player was quoted as saying after the match.
2. Ex-Barcelona stars spotted at Mugabe’s rally
In August this year, state-owned Herald newspaper ran a photo of former Barcelona stars Patrick Kluivert and Edgar Davids presenting a replica Barca shirt with the name RG Mugabe on it to vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa.
The paper said Mnangagwa would give the shirt to President Mugabe, along with another shirt for Mugabe’s wife Grace, which had the name ‘Amai’ (‘Mother’) on it. The former Barcelona star’s appearance at Mugabe’s rally drew a lot of criticism from government opponents.
3. Mugabe laments lack of support for football
In 2013, President Robert Mugabe said lack of government support to football was preventing the Warriors from progressing to international tournaments. Speaking after handing the Bob89 trophy to Dynamos, Mugabe said he was confident that the national football team could win at international competitions if government increased support to the sport.
4. Mugabe is a Chelsea and Barcelona fan
In 2012, while discussing football with a group of Zimbabwean players, including former national captain Benjani Mwaruwari, Mugabe revealed that he was at Chelsea and Barcelona.
He also revealed that he was a keen football fan who demanded peace and quiet when he watched big games on television. “When I watch football, I do not want anyone to disturb me. Even my wife knows where to sit because while they are scoring in the field I will also be scoring at home, kicking everything in front of me,” he was quoted as saying by New Zimbabwe.
5. Brazil visit brings Zimbabwe to a standstill
In 2010, Zimbabwe came to a standstill as Mugabe’s government declared a half-day public holiday for people to go and watch the Warriors take on the mighty Brazil. About 60 000 people crammed into the National Stadium in Harare to watch the match.
There was a lot of jubilation as Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai, who was Zimbabwe’s prime minister then, walked into the pitch to greet the players. That day, Mugabe’s Zanu-PF and Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change were united as they watched the world’s best players take on the Warriors.