Mugabe hails football's unifying role

2010-05-26 10:21

Harare - Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, whose 30-year rule has been marked by political unrest and economic collapse, said on Tuesday the World Cup would show Africa moving toward peace and democracy.

"The 2010 World Cup finals are indeed an opportunity for us to prove to the world that Africa is more than the often-held stereotype of a continent mired in strife, disease and poverty," he said at an event marking Africa Day.

"Yes we have our challenges and shortcomings, as is common with humanity elsewhere. Yet despite these challenges, we remain a united people bound together by our common determination to build a peaceful and democratic continent, which is free from poverty and disease," he said.

"While ethnic and religious differences have sparked sectarian conflicts in Africa, soccer, more than any other sport, has helped people to look beyond their differences."

Africa Day is a commemoration of the formation in 1963 of the African Union's (AU) predecessor, the Organisation of African Unity which sought to help African countries fight for liberation from colonial rule.

Zimbabwe had hoped to attract some of the teams coming to neighbouring South Africa for the June 11 to July 11 tournament. So far, only North Korea has indicated that it might train in Zimbabwe ahead of the World Cup.