rugby1.jpgThe issue of athletes switching citizenship is arguably one inconclusive debate as to whether athletes have become traitors to their own nations or coldblooded money mongers.
As the 2011 Rugby World Cup explodes this weekend in New Zealand, Zimbabwe is reminded once again of the importance of investing in sport or continue facing the risk of losing world class athletes through country swapping.

With Zimbabwe among the nations that will be watching from the sidelines as rugby’s biggest competition explodes into life in New Zealand this weekend, local rugby lovers can only be forgiven for imagining the kind of competition Zimbabwe may have offered, had the nation been able to retain a long list of players that have switched to be becoming players of other countries at the world cup.

Kenya is victim too to some serious country swapping which often comes with a cash payout to the athletes from their new nations.

In 2004 Athens the world’s fastest steeplechasers Kenyan Stephen Cherono had to miss out in the 3000 meter race at the Olympics yet he was serving his IOC ban for having changed from being Kenyan to becoming a Qatari.

In changing nationalities Cherono assumed the name Saif Saaeed Shaheen while fellow Kenyan Albert Chepkurui a 5.000 meter runner now goes by the name Abdullar Ahma Hassan.

Along this list are many other world-class Kenyan runners who have changed nationalities with other going to Bahrain, the Netherlands and the States.

For many, a Zimbabwean winning for Zimbabwe is heart-warming TV, but a Zimbabwean winning for USA is coldblooded commercialism.

The big question though is they traitors or professionals seeking livelihoods.

The above analogy simply highlights the importance of investing in sport.

Local athletes in track, rugby, swimming and football continue to discard their Zimbabwean citizenship, others too illegally operate with dual citizenship.

The main reason behind the change of identity is the lack of lucrative incentive let alone good training facilities in local sports.

Zimbabwe stands out as one nation with no grants to support sport, its government is totally silent on a sport budget and yet it is home for some 14 million avid and success starved sports followers.