Netball has always been a fringe sport in Zimbabwe, enjoying hardly any media coverage or support, until recently – when the Gems, the country’s netball team, qualified for the Netball World Cup for the first time in history. The Netball World Cup is set to take place at the Echo Arena in Liverpool, England, from 12 to 21 July 2019. Africa will be represented by teams from Zimbabwe, South Africa, Malawi and Uganda. The Zimbabwe Gems qualified after finishing second at the African Netball Championship that was held in Zambia last year.
Ranked 13th by the International Netball Association, Zimbabwe heads for the World Cup to face a tough group that includes the 8th ranked Northern Ireland, champions Austria, and Sri Lanka, ranked 26th. The Zimbabwean players are optimistic that they will make it through the preliminary rounds.
UK-based Zimbabwean player Thandeka Muswa sang the praises of her team and is confident that they will impress many at the tournament. “Compared to other teams from abroad, our team is very talented and stands a good chance in the upcoming World Cup,” Muswa told This is Africa.
The Zimbabwean team’s coach, Lloyd Makunde, told This is Africa that he was optimistic but cautious, saying his team has a “60-40 chance of proceeding to the second round”.
Even though the tournament will not be an easy one, the morale in the camp is positive and high and the women are ready to sparkle.
Netball, being a fringe sport, is not well funded and does not get the same corporate or government support as the bigger sports. Getting funding to prepare for the team’s maiden World Cup appearance has been a challenge. The team management launched a crowd funding initiative to help with raising the money needed to boost preparation for the tournament. A number of corporates have stepped up to the plate and assisted the team, and the government also committed some funding and support.
Uganda, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Malawi will join Australia, England, Fiji, Jamaica, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Samoa and Scotland in the 2019 Netball World Cup. We wish them well.