Zimbabwe out of Homeless World Cup
Zimbabwe won't be going to the United Nations-backed Homeless World Cup football tournament in Brazil this weekend because most of the players didn't come home last time, the team's coach said Tuesday.
Petros Chatiza told The Associated Press that the team's last appearance in Australia in 2008 ended in turmoil after nine of the 10-member squad - composed of players from some of the impoverished country's most squalid townships - went missing and only he returned to Zimbabwe.
For that reason, when Italy hosted last year's tournament, the European country refused visas for the revamped Zimbabwean team.
Chatiza says he didn't bother to prepare for Brazil, where the seven-a-side tournament will be held starting Sunday, but is hoping to compete again in France next year.
''We are now trying to get ready enough to be accepted in France next year,'' Chatiza said.
In recent years, Zimbabweans have disappeared from several official trips abroad under the banner of sporting or civic events. A group of Boy Scouts left a camp at a jamboree in Britain honoring the world founder of the movement, Lord Robert Baden-Powell.
At least 3 million Zimbabweans have fled the country as economic refugees or political fugitives.
For Chatiza, getting a new team ready includes taking steps to show that players are working - if only selling goods, growing vegetables or doing carpentry - and thus would have reasons to come home.
The annual seven-a-side tournament's sponsors include the U.N. children's' agency, the European Football Association and Nike.
The competition claims it is taking the game to streets of the world, creating self-esteem among youthful players and ''beating homelessness and poverty through football.''
Chatiza said his team trained at the Hatcliffe township settlement outside Harare, a camp of wooden shacks housing many families displaced by a brutal government ''urban renewal'' program in 2005 known as Operation Murambvatsina, or ''clear out the filth'' in the local Shona language.
The United Nations estimated that 700,000 people were left homeless in that operation and another 2 million lost their livelihoods as market stalls and traders' roadside shelters were demolished amid violence.
Critics said the slum clearance program aimed to root out burgeoning support for the then opposition Movement for Democratic Change party in urban areas.
Last year, Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai joined a power sharing coalition as prime minister with longtime President Robert Mugabe in efforts to end a decade of political violence and economic meltdown.