World Cup: Brazil versus Zimbabwe is not a good idea at all

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Brazil’s global popularity could take a significant dip if the five-time World Cup winner follows through on plans to play Zimbabwe in a friendly match in Harare on June 2.

At the very least, Brazilians are going to come in for some heated criticism.


Those who argue that sport and politics should not mix have their head in the sand. They mix all the time. Politicians like nothing more than to be photographed with the public’s sporting idols, just as players and coaches like to hobnob with national leaders. Witness the U.S. World Cup team’s visit to the White House on Thursday to be wished the best of World Cup luck by President Barack Obama, with former President Bill Clinton also tagging along.

Brazil going to play in Zimbabwe is flat-out a bad idea. The game should be scrapped right now, before it causes further embarrassment for the Selecao.

Any action that gives legitimacy to a regime as cruel and odious as that of Robert Mugabe is wrong. It is all very well for people to argue that the ordinary citizens of Zimbabwe deserve the chance to see the world’s top-ranked team, but it is Mugabe and his cronies who will reap the publicity benefits.

There is a one-word reason why no international team from outside Africa has played in Zimbabwe in the last 30 years: Mugabe. Even his ally, North Korea, recently canceled plans to play there.

Brazil has another game on tap, against Tanzania in Dar es Salaam on June 7. Nothing wrong with that. And if Brazil Coach Dunga feels his team needs some warmup games against African opponents, there are any number of countries to choose from without resorting to Zimbabwe.

Brazil could even play South Africa, which is seeking a top-flight opponent and whose coach, Carlos Alberto Parreira, coached the Brazil team (with Dunga as captain) that won the 1994 World Cup in the U.S.

But Zimbabwe? No way. Cancel it now.

-- Grahame L. Jones