Harare, Zimbabwe (News of The South) – The countdown to the African Netball championships set for the Bellville Velodrome, Cape Town, South Africa, has already begun in earnest but Zimbabwe is yet to announce the team to participate at the continental showpiece.
The African championship tournament is set to kick off from the 18th until the 22nd of October and Africa’s best eight teams will be going head to head for the continents netball ultimate prize in Cape Town in a few days time. Zimbabwe it would appear is not ready or are far from from it.
Zimbabwe netball gems made a huge impression at the Vitality Netball World Cup in Liverpool England in July, where they finished a credible 8th out of 16 teams. Stiff and intense competition is expected over the five days which requires great athleticism and player mangement. A demanding schedule of almost 8 games in five days will be the ultimate physical test for the girls and push them to their limits.
Mental health and overall well-being of players will be an important factor as well physical fitness. Some of the players have not played competitively since the worldcup following the failure of the Zimbabwe Netball Super League to take off.
They now carry a huge weight of expectations on their shoulders and the nation expect the girls to be challenging for honours and improve their ranking.
The Gems of Zimbabwe beat Northern Ireland in a thriller of a game which catapulted Zimbabwe into the Tournament’s Top 8 Teams and also raised their World ranking as Ireland ranked at number 9 and Zim Gems ranked 13th.
Now that the draw is out, Zimbabwe is expected to be making thorough preparations but off court bickering by administrators has stalled the game’s progress and deflated the nation’s expectation.
The African Netball championship is run by the International Netball Federation (INF) whose portfolio includes high quality international events such as the Netball World Cup, the Netball Youth Cup (Under21) as well as the Fast 5 Netball World Series.
Following their impressive showing at the 2019 Netball World Cup where they finished a credible 8th, Zimbabwe were recently drawn in Group B together with rivals and defending champions Uganda who finished 7th in Liverpool, Kenya and Tanzania while Group A consists of South Africa who finished 4th in Liverpool, Zambia, Malawi who also finished 5th in Liverpool and Lesotho.
Hosts SA are the top ranked side after their 4th place finish at the Liverpool Vitality World Cup, followed by Uganda who finished 7th and Malawi 6th who were part of the four team African contigent at the world netball showpiece.
Zimbabwe Head Coach, Lloyd Makunde, and Assiststant Ropafadzo Mutsauki are in a limbo and are waiting to hear from the Zimbabwe National Netball Association, on when to call for a camp and make the much-awaited team announcement.
“…Am waiting to hear from the national association, I take instruction from the national association, maybe if you talk to the president, Mai Chipandu she would be in a better position…” said Makunde.
The media have made several inquiries on the African championships and have been told the squad, the final preparations and other details will be made available soon.
“…when things shape up soon , I will advise but zvirikuita,” said Zimbabwe Netball President Letticia Chipandu when asked about the impending African Championships, team preps and team announcment vis-a-vis state of the game at the moment.
The Zimbabwe “Netball Gems” team is expected to be in top form and to book a place in the top three. The ZimGems technical team is not expected to make any major changes but maybe a few tweaks here and there to strengthen the team.
It is never easy to play any of the African countries especially those teams that competed at the 2019 Netball World Cup did very well, and all finished in the top Ten.
The technical team should never underestimate, any of the teams at the African championships because they are very physical and have height advantage as they ZimGems discovered at the 2019 World Cup in Englands.
Zimbabwe needed to prepare very well and make sure that they are physically and conditioned better especially against Uganda during their opening game of the African championships on the 18th as well as on saturday 19th against Kenya, and Sunday 20th against Tanzania if they want to advance to the next stage of the tournament on Monday the 21st of October.
The ZimGems should never lose sight of the goal and dream to win this tournament and become the best ranked team in the continent, they need to beat the best on the African continent especially after a top 10 finish at the world cup.
From the team that participated at the World Cup in Liverpool, 37 year-old captain Perpetua Siyachitema, Australian based 36 year-old mother of three and Goal Shooter Joice Takaidza and 30 year-old Pauline Jani of ZRP Queens are understood to have expressed their desire to retire from international duty after the world’s sporting showpiece. Mercy Mukwadi recently returned to England in search of greener pastures.
Zimbabwe who took a big squad of 20, although only 12 played. The ZimGems still have UK based 21 year-old Adelaide Muskwe, 20 year-old law student Claris “Advocate” Kwaramba Platinum Queens in Zvishavane , Goal Defenders/Keeper Rudo Kwaramba, Felistus Kwanga is expected to assume the captaincy, centre Ndaiziveyi Madzikangava, wing attack Patricia “Savanna” Mauladi, Sharleen Makusha, Sharon T Bwanali and goal attack Ursula Ndlovu to choose from.
Zimbabwe should still be very competitive, judging from their performance in England they have the skill, agility, depth and reserves in players such as Beauty Sithole, Lorraine “lolo” Gamu Manjoro, Melannie “Mel C Mel” Mariri, Progress Moyo, Stembile Chitiva and Tafadzwa Mavangoh among others who were part of the squad that travelled to the World Cup.
It is critical at this level of competition where the schedule is tight to manage the girls physical, mental and emotional resources for the tournament to ensure they perform to best potential throughout with a recovery programme to avoid suffering from setbacks as the tournament progresses.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe Netball Association which is under fire from all corners stand accused of maladministration and incompetence after failing to secure sponsorship to run a national league, the Netball Super League where the majority of players that went to the world cup including those from the development side were drawn from.
In the midst of all this bickering, the team and it’s final preparations for the African Championships remain shrouded in secrecy.
The Ministry of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation other corporate partners are also quiet and will they rally behind the Girls once again? Will the corporates and the public keep up the support for these extraordinary ladies. Without any meaningful match practice and competition behind them, are Gems going to blow our minds with another amazing performance yet again?
The ZimGems at the World Cup in Liverpool last July told a powerful rhetoric about the resilience of a strong and intelligent Zimbabwean woman, as we they known to be. It was such a proud moment to watch our ZimGems competing at the highest level in their maiden appearance despite their humble backgrounds.
Zimbabwe’s sporting glory all belongs to girl-child but the girls have not been empowered outside of Netball with their personal lives. Players have an identity outside of netball and otheres needed to pursue other interests and need support with those interests that they may be pasionate about since netball in Zimbabwe in semi-professional.
But will the ZimGems shine once again in Cape Town, as they prepare to take on the best of the best in African netball from the 16th of this month?- NewsOfTheSouth