A fan’s Cape to Cairo labour of love

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Tadious Manyepo

Harare - For a year now, Zimbabwean football super fan Alvin Zhakata has refused to open up on the details of his Cape to Cairo road trip. 

A 51-day trip that started in freezing Cape Town through pounding Ethiopian rains and into sweltering Cairo took the 35-year-old to watch the Africa Cup of Nations.

Apart from the vagaries of the weather, Zhakata also faced visa problems and time in police cells.

At the end of it all, Zhakata missed Zimbabwe’s three group stage games against Egypt, Uganda and the DRC.

Zimbabwe’s Warriors were booted out, but CAF president Ahmad Ahmad offered Zhakata a seat to watch the final between eventual winners Algeria and Senegal in the VVIP enclosure.

But, what prompted Zhakata and his South African counterpart, Botha Msila, to embark on the transcontinental journey?

Botha did not complete the journey by road, opting to go by air once he reached the Kenya-Ethiopia border and decided he’d had enough of the horrors African governments inflict on fellow Africans simply trying to travel in their own continent.

Zhakata this week said, "After my trip to Rwanda in 2016 I noticed there are some challenges to be faced when travelling across the continent but realised that there are also interesting, diverse cultures, different languages, currencies and food, so I just thought I needed to experience all that.

"So, I called my brother Botha Msila in South Africa, who I knew would be interested in exploring the beauty of the continent. I sold him the idea and he accepted the invite."

From Cape Town in South Africa, the pair passed through Zimbabwe, Zambia and Kenya. But it was no joyride. 

"The trip was physically, psychologically and financially taxing. We never got enough rest…

"I never got to relax as I always kept on worrying about the next hump. At some point I thought I was not going to make it alive. Honestly. 

"The money that I had budgeted was gobbled by unplanned for visas, bribes, tips, theft, conmen, accommodation, food and so many things. In extreme cases, I was given fake money at the Sudanese border and I ended up being arrested. I ended up incurring debts."

Zhakata, who rarely misses a home game featuring Zimbabwe’s Warriors or his favourite club, Dynamos, is like most fans disappointed by the way COVID-19 has disrupted the football calendar.

Zimbabwe’s soccer season was supposed to start in April and has been tentatively scheduled to begin in September.

"It's definitely a huge blow because football is an integral part of my life. I eat and breathe football. So I am starved and suffocated. I am failing to adapt to the new normal.

"I have been forced to revert to my childhood hobbies of watching movie, TV series or playing (video) games.”

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