Journalists from the independent Press were yesterday barred from covering a meeting between visiting Fifa president Sepp Blatter and President Robert Mugabe at State House.
Only the presidential photographer, ZBC and Herald photographer, Fifa and Zifa photographers were allowed into the meeting, which was also attended by Zifa president Cuthbert Dube and Education minister David Coltart, among others.
The rest of the officials — Fifa secretary-general Jerome Valcke, Fifa Southern Region Development officer Ashford Mamelodi and his boss Francesco Bruscoli, the Fifa senior manager for development in Africa — enjoyed the serene surroundings at State House chatting with local officials.
Blatter, who paid a courtesy call on President Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, also officially handed over the artificial turf at Rufaro Stadium in Harare yesterday at half-time during the Zimbabwe-Malawi Cosafa women’s football championships match.
Blatter had separate closed-door meetings with President Mugabe and the Prime Minister. With Tsvangirai the two discussed football development in the country, where Blatter reiterated Fifa’s commitment to help develop local football. The Fifa boss arrived at State House around 1345hrs and had a photo shoot at 1411hrs, before he went into a closed-door briefing with the President.
The two leaders later emerged and told journalists they had hope for the future of African football in general, and Zimbabwe in particular, before Blatter attended the Mighty Warriors-Malawi match at Rufaro.
“We are very honoured by this great visit by the most powerful man in football, and we hope that that power will rub off into us,” said President Mugabe. He also congratulated Dube for making the visit possible.
Blatter added: “This is a great country and I am sure I have seen that football is a tool for the future. The spirit of fair play needs to be seen in everything that is being done about football and it must cascade from the Under-17, Under-20, Under-23 and the senior national team. This is good for the country.
“When we brought the World Cup to South Africa in 2010, we knew that Africa has the potential to organise big events. Now it is the initiative of the sporting organisations and their governments to organise and put things in place. We in football have trust in Africa.”
At Rufaro, Blatter was met by Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara and Deputy Minister of Education Lazarus Dokora to thunderous applause from the crowd that came to watch the match.
Principal director in the same ministry Paul Damasane, Zifa president Dube, Tourism minister Walter Mzembi and women football boss Mavis Gumbo were also at Rufaro.