Editorial Comment: Give passports to our soccer stars

WHEN Macauley Bonne posted on Twitter in May this year that finally he was off to represent his country at the 2019 AFCON finals in Egypt, scores of Warriors’ fans responded positively to that message. After what had appeared an eternity, it finally appeared as if Bonne had leapt all the hurdles which had been in his path and, at long last, he could wear the gold-and-green colours of our senior national football team.

“To counter the Press reports, I have completed all necessary documents to get my #Zimbabwe passport. I will be travelling to #AFCON2019 this summer, representing my country,’’ Bonne tweeted on May 14.

The tweet was accompanied by a picture of the striker shaking hands with the Zimbabwean Ambassador to the United Kingdon, Retired Colonel Christian Katsande at Zimbabwe House in London.

There is a reason Bonne brings all this excitement among the fans of the Warriors.

He has proved, in the past few years, to be a dependable goal-scorer, an old-fashioned type of number nine whose job is to just put the ball in the back of the net.

It’s an area where the Warriors have struggled, to find a reliable gunslinger, for a long time with most of the team’s goals coming from Khama Billiat and Knowledge Musona, who usually play coming in from the flanks.

Agent Sawu used to do that job very well, back in the days of the Dream Team, sticking around the penalty area and waiting for the ball to be pushed into his path, either in the air or on the ground, just to drill it home.

The late Adam Ndlovu was also a good centre forward for the Warriors.

But, in the past decade, we haven’t had someone to play that role with the efficiency that we need and when Musona is off colour, as happened during the 2019 AFCON finals, we have seen the Warriors struggle badly for goals.

Bonne’s critics were saying the optimism surrounding him might be misplaced, arguing he had been scoring goals in the non-league for English side Leyton Orient, where they claimed the standards were not as good as those in the competitive leagues.

However, five goals in his last six matches for English Championship side, Charlton Athletic, have silenced all those dissenting voices and justified why the English media believe he could be the next Jamie Vardy, the player who rose from non-league to become one of the hottest strikers in the Premiership.

Bonne didn’t feature for the Warriors at the 2019 AFCON finals because he couldn’t secure a Zimbabwean passport and, in recent weeks, he has been speaking openly about the disappointment he endured when he missed that tournament.

Last week, the Warriors’ caretaker coach Joey Antipas included Bonne in his provisional squad for the 2021 AFCON qualifiers against Botswana and Zambia next month.

Still, the striker doesn’t have a Zimbabwean passport, the document he requires to play in those matches, and five months after Bonne announced he was going to represent the Warriors at the last AFCON finals, the striker hasn’t secured the document that would make that possible.

Fans have a reason to ask questions, to be perplexed by all this, because they can’t understand how it can be this difficult for such a talented athlete, who has committed his future to serve this country, should be enduring all these frustrations just to play for the Warriors.

They badly need answers, and they are right, because, in more ways than one, everything doesn’t appear to make sense.

Warriors team manager Wellington Mpandare told us that the last time they tried to get Bonne a passport, they were told that he would only qualify for the document if he renounced his British citizenship given that he was born outside the country.

Mpandare said they were told that those who were born here, and now hold foreign passports, can easily have their Zimbabwean passports processed.

If, that is the case, and Bonne hasn’t shown commitment to renounce his British citizenship, given it’s something he requires to pursue his football career right now as just holding a Zimbabwean one, would mean he has to apply for a work permit which he isn’t guaranteed to get.

So, if the complexity of the case is steeped in the laws of this country, why then is Bonne being called into the Warriors’ provisional squad when there are no chances of him getting a Zimbabwean passport to play in a competitive match for the team?

Why is the Registrar-General’s Office, as we report elsewhere in this newspaper, requesting that the Warriors’ team management, who have been applying for the passport on Bonne’s behalf, get a Zimbabwean birth certificate for the player and also his mother submits the identity card she is using in England for the application to be processed?

If Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation Minister Kirsty Coventry has personally written a supporting letter to the Registrar-General for Bonne, and others who have been selected for duty — Cliff Moyo, Adam Chicksen, Jordan Zemura and Tivonge Rushesha — to be given Zimbabwean passports, what really is holding back the process?

We believe this is another case where we should be guided by the national interest, what can help this country and the success of the Warriors is central to that because it shapes the mood of this nation.

And, whatever challenges might be delaying the process, should be overcome by the need to put our national interests ahead of everything else.

Which is why we believe mountains should be moved to ensure these players get Zimbabwean passports and come home to play in the 2021 AFCON qualifiers.

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