Collin Matiza Sports Editor
THE Judo Association of Zimbabwe will next month hold the inaugural Brian Warren Open Tournament in Harare in honour of their late former president. Warren passed away in September 2015 at the age of 76 after having run the sport of judo in Zimbabwe for more than two decades before he passed on the baton to his daughter — Debbie — who later relinquished the president’s post to Smart Deke at the beginning of this year.
He also served as one of the two vice-presidents of the Zimbabwe Olympic Committee for nine years from 2004 to 2013 when he stepped down and was then honoured as a life honorary member of the same organisation that same year. And JAZ, in recognition of the late Warren’s contribution to the development of judo in this country, have decided to hold an Open tournament in his honour at Harare’s Hellenic Junior School on November 25. Deke, the JAZ president, told The Herald yesterday that the tournament, which was initially scheduled for November 4 before it was moved to November 25, will be open for both male and female junior and senior judokas.
“As you all well know, the late Brian Warren ran the Judo Association of Zimbabwe with his wife, Pat, with distinction and they produced a number of judokas, including his daughter Debbie and Simon Mapanda, who managed to put our country on the world map by excelling at a number of major international tournaments around the globe. And as a way of honouring Brian Warren for the tremendous job that he did during his tenure as the president of JAZ, we have decided to host an Open tournament at Hellenic Junior School hall on November 25.
“So we are inviting all interested junior and senior judokas, clubs and coaches from around the country to register for this big tournament which, l hope, is going to be a great success. Entry fee will be $5 for all the competitors and $1 for the spectators. We are hoping to turn this tournament into an annual event,” Deke said.
He also said they were hosting the Brian Warren Open tournament as part of their efforts to revive the sport of judo in this country. In fact, since he took over the hot seat as the president of JAZ at the beginning of this year, Deke has been working tirelessly to promote judo in this country and this has seen him taking the sport to Epworth, a settlement in south-eastern Harare, where they recently hosted another Open tournament.
The tournament in Epworth attracted 23 athletes, both juniors and seniors, and was graced by former ZOC president Tommy Sithole and his close friend Musekiwa Kumbula, who sponsored the event. Kumbula is one of Epworth’s most illustrious sons who, together with Sithole, mooted the idea of constructing an Olympafrica Centre next to Domboramwari Secondary School.
He approached the Epworth Local Board with the idea of setting up the Olympafrica Centre in the town before they got into a partnership with ZOC.
The project is expected to cost over $500 000 and will be completed in the next five years.
This year’s Olympic Fun Day celebrations were also staged in Epworth towards the end of July for the second year running with the blessings of ZOC and a number of sporting events, including judo, were lined-up for the day.