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 Tuesday, 14 January, 2003, 16:05 GMT
Ex-player elated with decision
Neil Johnson in action
Johnson is happy for the people of Zimbabwe
The embattled people of Zimbabwe and its cricket team are the main beneficiaries of England's decision to honour their World Cup fixture.

That is the view of former Zimbabwe cricketer Neil Johnson, who represented his country in the 1999 tournament.

Johnson was thrilled the ECB ended months of uncertainty over England's possible boycott in opposition to shamed Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe.

It is wrong to make cricketers a pawn in the political process

Neil Johnson

"It is a magnificent announcement and I am thrilled for the team," Johnson told BBC Sport Online.

"Without cricket they have nothing and that goes for the people, too.

"Zimbabweans want this game to go ahead - it is something for them to hold onto in these very hard times."

Although Zimbabwe captain Heath Streak is of a similar view, there are unnamed players within the team who feel the match should not take place.

Heath Streak
Streak: "It is not fair to drag politics into this"

"It's a question of morality. I'm completely against World Cup games being played here," said one of the objectors.

But Johnson said it should not be the business of sport to make decisions based on politics.

"These decisions are not for cricket to make," he said.

"Everyone knows what a terrible situation Zimbabwe is in but it should be left to politicians to make things right, not sport.

"Someone has to make a stand, but I don't think England is in any way condoning Robert Mugabe by consenting to play cricket here."

Johnson said he sympathised with England's cricketers, who had been put under increasing pressure to make individual decisions.

Something like cricket can show us there is light at the end of the tunnel

Neil Johnson

"It is totally wrong to make cricketers a pawn in the political process.

"They are sportsmen and not politicians so to expect them to do something that others should be doing is really unfair.

"I am happy for players of both England and Zimbabwe, but I am really happy for the people.

Johnson played 13 Test matches and 48 one-dayers for Zimbabwe, but retired in 2000 to concentrate on playing first-class cricket in South Africa.

 VOTE RESULTS
Should the England team toe the ECB line?

Yes
 47.13% 

No
 52.87% 

4392 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion
Calls grow for World Cup matches in Zimbabwe to be boycotted

Zimbabwe decision

Background

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