WC 2003 - Flower, Olonga are national heroes: Johnstone

Published: Friday, March 14, 2003, 22:13 [IST]
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Doha: Zimbabwean cricketers Andy Flower and Henry Olonga should be honoured as national heroes if and when President Robert Mugabe is ousted, the country's veteran golfer Tony Johnstone said on Thursday.Johnstone, a staunch critic of the Zimbabwean government, was in the forefront of anti-Mugabe protests even before the World Cup began and laid the blame on the International Cricket Council (ICC) for going ahead with matches in the strife-torn African country.

"Anybody who doesn't think that Zimbabwe isn't in an absolute, unadulterated shambles, have got their heads in the sand," the England-based Johnstone, who won the Qatar Masters in 2001, told."The ICC shouldn't have scheduled the World Cup matches in Zimbabwe in the first place."Flower and Olonga hit the headlines with their black armband protests against the Mugabe regime during the World Cup and were subsequently threatened with their removal from the squad.

"The Mugabe government's policies have been blamed for food shortages and unrest in Zimbabwe and I think what Henry and Andy have done is simply brave," said Johnstone."Their criticism of the regime is right because where there is no freedom of speech and expression. There is no democracy."The regime there is ruthless and these guys have been unbelievably brave because they live there with their families. They should be declared national heroes when the situation improves.

"It's alright for me to criticise the government because I don't live there anymore and I don't have to worry about my family. But my heart lies in Zimbabwe."While Flower was allowed to play all the matches in the World Cup, Olonga was dropped after the first match and was only recalled for Wednesday's outing against Kenya at Bloemfontein.Flower has already announced he will quit international cricket after the World Cup and has sent his wife and two children to England where he will be playing county cricket for Essex.Copyright AFP 2001

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