THE surprise visit by Real Madrid and Barcelona football legend Luis Figo last week was a major coup for Bulawayo for a number of reasons.
Southern Eye Editorial
The former Portuguese international’s visit to the city came after he was connected to Bulawayo businessman Reverend Lot Mpofu’s family by South African businessman Gayton McKenzie.
Figo spent Thursday at Mpofu’s gold mine, Happy Valley Mine, in Esigodini.
He also visited a number of places in Bulawayo such as the National Museum of Natural Sciences and History where he was mobbed by schoolchildren visiting the place.
Figo reportedly asked several questions about Bulawayo — the business climate and investment prospects.
He also asked the Mpofu family about areas where he could land a hand as part of his social responsibility and Highlanders Football Club, Tenyson Hlabangana Mission as well as two Esigodini Primary Schools were mentioned.
There were also a number of initiatives that were bandied around that included Figo being involved in a tournament involving four of the city’s top football clubs from the Premier Soccer League and the Southern Region Division One League.
Figo’s partners are also toying around bringing world football stars such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi to Bulawayo for an exhibition match. The soccer legend reportedly promised to return soon to follow up on these proposals and other investment opportunities.
There is no doubt the mere visit by such a high-profile celebrity would have a positive impact on local tourism.
Zimbabwe is still battling to correct the negative perception in major source markets that it is not a safe destination for tourists because of long-running political disputes.
The country is also considered to be an unsafe investment destination because of a number of policies that have not been communicated properly to the outside world because of the nature of our politics.
Bulawayo has borne the brunt of these negative perceptions, registering record company closures in the past few years. Investment has literally dried up in the city and there is little hope for recovery.
Therefore, it is against this background that Figo’s visit to Bulawayo must be celebrated because it shows that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Mpofu, his family and partners who hosted the celebrity must be commended for playing their part to ensure that Bulawayo does not die.