44 AND COUNTING…It’s been such an amazing adventure for us…World champs, Olympians, iconic footballers

Robson Sharuko


FOR a country still celebrating its Independence, two major success stories, on the international scene, sent a message to the world that the new arrivals were not there just to add numbers.

But, that this was a small but proud nation which wanted to make up for lost time and wanted to be counted for its resilience, fearlessness and the talent which was abundant in its belly.

In the past 44 years, Zimbabwe has provided the world with its greatest African Olympian, in Kirsty Coventry, who is the country’s Sports Minister.

The first African footballer to play in the English Premiership, was a Zimbabwean, Peter Ndlovu, while another Zimbabwean, Bruce Grobbelaar, was the first football star, from this continent, to win the Champions League.

Nick Price rose to become number one in the world, and so did the Black family — Byron, Wayne and Cara — in doubles in tennis while Evan Stewart rose to the top of the global tree in diving.

Today, hundreds, if not thousands of Zimbabweans occupy top positions at some of the world’s leading companies while its pilots have made their presence felt around the globe.

Maybe, all these success stories were foretold in the first few months after Independence in 1980 when Zimbabwe flexed its muscles.

Just three months after Independence, the Zimbabwe women’s hockey team shocked the world by winning gold at the ’80 Olympics in Moscow, Russia.

For a team, which was only invited to the Olympics, a month before the start of the extravaganza, their success story is probably the finest fairy-tale ever written at the Games.

The Golden Girls completed the tournament unbeaten, having scored the highest number of goals and conceding the lowest number of goals.

They first thrashed Poland 4-0 in the first game, drew 201 with the then Czechoslovakia, beat the hosts 2-0, drew 1-1 with India before beating Austria 3-1 to win the round robin tournament.

Pat McKillop, who was a housewife in Bulawayo, struck six times and won the top-scorer award at the Games together with Natella Krasnikova, representing the host country.

Later that year, Shirley Nyanyiwa, who had made history as the first black woman to win the Miss Zimbabwe beauty pageant, arrived in England for the Miss World contest.

Shirley Nyanyiwa

She joined scores of the world’s most beautiful women at Royal Albert Hall in London for the Miss World finals.

Ironically, Nyanyiwa is from Buhera, where this year’s main Independence celebrations are being held today.

She finished 15th, which was a huge achievement, which was celebrated in our sister newspaper, The Herald.

“Zimbabwe’s 22-year-old Shirley Nyanyiwa has been judged one of the 15 most beautiful women in the world,” thundered the newspaper on November 14, 1980.

“Defying odds of 100-1, the tall Miss Nyanyiwa was placed among the top 15 entrants in the Miss World contest here last night.

“The competition was won by the tall, blonde Miss Germany, Gabriella Brum. Second was Miss Guam, Kimberley Santos.

Nyanyiwa, who lost her husband Peter Chingoka in August 2019, now spends most of her time at her farm.

She must be proud that 44 years, the country which she represented with distinction in London in 1980, continues to battle against the same odds she faced at the Miss World contest that year.

Some Interesting Bits About The Number 44:

l Jesus was crucified on Wednesday, April 5 in 30 A.D. The period between His crucifixion and his ascension was 44 days.

Shirley Nyanyiwa

l Some words, in the original language text of the King James Bible, appear exactly 44 times. These include the Hebrew words okel, usually translated as “food” or “eating” and alab, which is translated as “milk.”

l The 44th book in most modern translations is the book of Acts. The book is unique in that it was written in pieces.

l Verse 44 of Daniel 2 makes the glorious announcement that God’s Kingdom will come to the earth after mankind’s final attempt to rule himself fails miserably. Jesse, the name of King David’s father, is recorded in 44 verses in the KJV Bible.

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