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Ex-Zim coach appeals to protestors

PUBLISHED: 06:43 26 May 2003 | UPDATED: 13:54 03 March 2010

FORMER Zimbabwe cricket coach Don Topley has urged protestors against the Mugabe regime to lay off the sport's bosses and star players.

Mr Topley, 39, who spent 12 years in first-class cricket with Essex, said he sympathised with campaigners angry that England are playing Zimbabwe despite political unrest in the visitors' country.

FORMER Zimbabwe cricket coach Don Topley has urged protestors against the Mugabe regime to lay off the sport's bosses and star players.

Mr Topley, 39, who spent 12 years in first-class cricket with Essex, said he sympathised with campaigners angry that England are playing Zimbabwe despite political unrest in the visitors' country.

He said they should direct their anger towards the Government for failing to take any action against Mugabe and leave sportsmen alone.

Furious protests against Zimbabwe's tour of England greeted the start of the summer's first Test match.

Exiled victims of President Robert Mugabe's regime waved banners and held a noisy demonstration outside Lord's ground, the home of English cricket.

Mr Topley, who was coach of Zimbabwe between 1990 and 1992, said he was opposed to the Mugabe regime but insisted sporting relations should be allowed to continue.

"Why are they targeting the cricketers? I am sympathetic to the campaigners – I would campaign with them – but why aren't they targeting the Government?" he said.

"Politicians are trying to raise their profiles with fashionable soundbites and they should not be putting pressure on sportsmen when all they are doing is plying their trade. Asking cricketers not to play – like Clare Short did – is entirely wrong."

Mr Topley, who works at the Royal Hospital School in Holbrook, near Ipswich, met Mugabe when he worked in Zimbabwe.

He said: "Not playing a Test tour is not going to get rid of Mugabe. It will, however, affect the livelihoods of a lot of Zimbabwean people. I have a lot of sympathy with them."

Protestors gathered outside Lord's yesterday waving banners. Shortly after England began their innings, protester Anna Meryt ran on to the pitch with a placard saying "Bowl out killer Mugabe".

Peter Tatchell, leader of protest group Stop The Tour Campaign, said: "There can be no normal sporting relations with an abnormal regime that uses rape, torture and murder as weapons of political repression."

Earlier this week some 94 Labour and Conservative MPs signed a Commons motion opposing Zimbabwe's tour.

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