Mugabe: I'm tempted to keep World Cup trophy
Hosts ... President Robert Mugabe, his son Chatunga, First Lady Grace and son Robert Jnr
pose with World Cup trophy in Harare on Thursday
by Lebo Nkatazo
Pure gold ... President Robert Mugabe with World Cup trophy
ZIMBABWE hosted the World Cup with dance and celebration on Thursday.
President Robert Mugabe joked he was tempted to keep the gold trophy which is being paraded in all 53 African countries before its final journey to South Africa, the first African hosts of the World Cup next June.
"Britain does not have any gold, neither does Germany. I am tempted to think that it came from Africa, and from Zimbabwe, and was taken away by adventurers who shaped it into this Cup," Mugabe said to laughter at a ceremony attended by government officials, football fans and journalists to receive the trophy at the Harare International Airport.
"When I hold the Cup, I know all of you will have the urge that I should not let it go because this could be our gold.”
Dozens of cheering football fans greeted the trophy’s arrival on a chartered Coca-Cola flight at the airport.
Traditional chiefs in ceremonial garb received the 18 carat gold trophy with a malachite base, first used at the 1974 finals.
The trophy – which arrived from Madagascar -- never left the airport. A welcome function was held at the domestic flights terminal which had been prepared for the ceremony.
Mugabe, his wife Grace, their footy-mad sons Chatunga and
Robert Jnr, Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, ZIFA officials and Sports Minister David Coltart were all on hand to receive the trophy designed by Italian Silvio Gazzaniga and crafted by trophy and medal manufacturer, GDE Bertoni.
The officials took turns to admire and pose for photographs with the trophy which Zimbabwe cannot win next year after failing to qualify for the finals.
Turning to Coltart, President Mugabe remarked: “We must also qualify to play for it and Mr Coltart, the job is yours. Let’s support the youngsters."
Mugabe said his government and the people of Zimbabwe felt “greatly honoured” to host the trophy “as it makes this historic journey on our continent”.
He added: "We are indebted to Fifa and Coca-Cola for affording Zimbabwean soccer followers this lifetime opportunity.
"It (football) has had a long journey, growing from a spontaneous social event into the world’s most popular sport, whose climax is the Fifa World Cup.
"Football, symbolised by this Fifa World Cup Trophy on display, has turned into a vehicle for the socio-economic and political transformation of societies.