Zim team hopeful for UK Cup

A team of Zimbabweans living in the UK will compete in this year’s African Nations Cup (UK), which opens in London this Saturday.

The ANC-UK was started in 2006 to be a symbol of unity, a platform for cultural celebration, and a source of health and educational information amongst African communities living in the UK.

This year the ANC-UK joins with the Terrence Higgins Trust to provide sexual health information and rapid HIV testing at the tournament; part of the “Play It Safe” campaign which encourages African men to improve their sexual health.

Sam Huwa, an organiser with the Zimbabwean team, played in the tournament last year, and was surprised at the high quality of the competition.

“Last year it was my local team, Luton Aces, that was invited, because we had won a tournament organised by the Terrence Higgins Trust and the majority of our team is Zimbabwean,” he said.

“But when we got to the tournament we realised that other teams, such as Uganda, would pick players from around the UK.”

Uganda are the holders and favourites to win again this year, but the Zimbabweans are striving to improve their team.

“We have decided to do things differently this year. We’re inviting Zimbabwean players and coaches from other teams to help us assemble a stronger team.”

“The logistics are proving difficult because it's a two weekend tournament, and we don’t have the finances to pay for transport – players have to use their own money.”

Nevertheless, Huwa insists the Zimbabweans will not give up without a fight, and are doing the best they can with limited resources.

“We are still in the process of gathering players from London and the surrounding areas who can come for the two weekends and represent their country. We have also planned a warm up game so that the players from different teams get to know each other before the tourney,” he said.

With so many new players the Zimbabweans are an unknown quantity this year, but Huwa hopes the team can make an impression against the traditional powerhouses of Uganda, Cameroon, Algeria, Sierra Leone, Ghana and Nigeria.

“These countries take it very seriously. I even know of players travelling from France to participate in this tourney,” said Huwa.

“Unfortunately, this year we are in the group of death because we have Uganda, Cameroon and Somalia in our group. If we get out of this group then we have a very good chance of reaching the finals.”

Taku Mukiwa, coordinator of ‘Play It Safe’, said supporters should come expecting a variety of African foods, a barbeque, and a communal atmosphere.

“The African Nations Cup is a great day out, and we are happy to be a part of it. The teams are very mixed: combinations of first generation immigrants and the children of immigrants,” he said.

“HIV is still a big issue for our community, and we want to do everything we can to raise awareness and help people stay safe and healthy.”

The African Nations Cup UK tournament takes place at West Ham Memorial Park, London over two weekends: 9th – 10th June and 16th – 17th June.

Post published in: Sport

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