HARARE Mayor Bernard Manyenyeni believes the capital could leverage its image on the sporting teams which are bankrolled by the municipality and also ride on their potential to lure tourists to the city.
Manyenyeni made the remarks while officially launching the inaugural Mayor’s Invitational Basketball Challenge tournament, which is expected to attract 19 teams drawn from clubs in the Southern African region.
The tournament is scheduled for the City Sports Centre next month.
Manyenyeni is the patron of Zimbabwe champions Harare City Hornets who will be the host club.
Hornets who are also the Harare Basketball Association A-League champions, have been in trailblazing form since they went on a revival mission last year with the management crew led by Sunny Mbofana, largely credited with the club’s meteoric rise.
In March, the Hornets were in Lilongwe, Malawi where they returned with the Brave Hearts Invitational Cup after defeating NAPSA Stars of Zambia in the final.
Last month Hornets were among the local clubs that travelled to Mbabane for the Swaziland tournament where for the second time of asking, they once again finished runners-up to Jozi Nuggets of South Africa.
Hornets will now get the chance to host an international tournament, the first of its kind to be staged by a sporting club under the City of Harare.
And Manyenyeni, who earlier this year had a fallout with the Harare City Football Club over their “huge’’ budget acknowledged the power of sport to promote the city’s image and also lure tourists to the capital.
Manyenyeni, also heaped praise on Hornets for their achievements in a short space of time. Hornets who are under the guidance of former Zimbabwe international Langton Moyo, also provide the bulk of the players to the national senior men’s team.
The club’s patron believes they could also conquer the region when they host the teams that will take part in the Mayor’s tournament.
“As Mayor of Harare my job is to be involved with every aspect of the city including the various softer activities that are so often over shadowed by the pressing operational issues. Sports Arts and Culture are among them such.
“The Harare City Hornets have come out of the blues for those not always in basketball circles like myself, but their achievements to date are evidence that a great deal of work has been happening in the background.
“I know that they took top spot in Malawi a few months back they got to the finals and took silver at a tournament in Swaziland against 19 other top teams from the Southern African Region.
“Because of these wins, and general success of the team the name Harare has been carried with them and by them as they travelled. The very name “Harare City Hornets” gives the team an ambassadorial role in their home and away games.
“With each of their successes the name of our City has been mentioned in every news report that talks about them.
“The upcoming Harare Mayors’ Invitational Basketball Challenge, they are trailblazing for our City. No Harare team has initiated a tournament of this nature, creating a platform for South Africans, Zambians, Mozambicans, Tanzanians, Malawians, Swazis and many others to visit the City that they have so far only heard about,’’ Manyenyeni said.
It is the fact that sport will be mixed with business during the tourney while also offering the youth with a platform to compete before bigger crowds that seems to be exciting Manyenyeni.
“In addition to carrying the name through their Fair Play Harare City Hornets have taken a bold step and dared to draw attention to our City. “Congratulations Harare City Hornets. I hear one of the teams coming has actually been sponsored by the mayor of their own city to make the trip.
“We seem to have provoked a real challenge . . . It gives these youngsters an opportunity to interact and play at a level that they may never have done without such an event I am most encouraged when the budgets are spread across many participants.
“When I accepted to be host patron of this event it was to support the vision that had been explained to me.
“I am glad I did because clearly the event certainly has significance beyond the basketball court. We hear that when the vice president of Malawi heard that some Malawian teams had signed on to be part of the Harare Mayors’ Invitational Basketball Challenge, he expressed an interest to come to the event.
“We hope he does and we would certainly be honoured to host him.
“He is a keen basketball player himself. During the next 35 days I hope to see Hararians rallying behind the effort of the organising of the inaugural Harare Mayors’ Invitational Basketball Challenge, its success will be a shared success,’’ Manyenyeni said.