By Josh Munthali
Netball players have been staying at home for several weeks now during this most challenging period in human history, to wear off the destructive power of coronavirus or COVID-19.
With all forms of netball in Zimbabwe, including every element of the Rainbow Amateur League or newly sponsored UK Zimbabwe Diaspora Insurance-Netball Super League, having been halted in March this year, stopping the forward momentum that netball had been enjoying.
The pause in play was necessary to wear off the destructive power of COVID-19
The lockdown all over the world had become an imperative without which the health war may not be won.
The great outdoors are currently off limits for now and most of the Netball Gems players during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, miss getting ‘the fix’ of activity and are raring to play for Zimbabwe and their netball clubs once again.
Netball players Ndaiziveyi Madzikangava 31, who plays at Centre, Wing Attack & Wing Defender for the Gems, Ursula Ndlovu, 26 Gems Goal Attack and shooter, and Patricia ‘Savannah’ Mauladi, 24- year-old who is comfortable playing at Centre, Wing attack, wing Defender shared their insights on life under the lockdown and after the historic 2019 Vitality World Cup, in Liverpool, England as well as hopes for the sport’s continued growth once it is safe to return to the court.
‘The pause due to the lockdown and the coronavirus (COVID-19) has had on netball is big and was not expected at all. We are exercising and keeping to social distancing rules as required by law,’ said Madzikangava.
‘We miss the game but cannot wait for the game to resume. We are trying to cope with and training while isolating,’ said Mauladi.
The exceptional pint-sized goal attack cum shooter, who is yet to play her domestic netball, is one of a number of the Gems’ more experienced players and was forced to take time away from the local arena after this year’s home competition was postponed before it started.
‘ I took some time off after the World Cup and African championships in SA and cannot wait to get on the court once this pandemic is over,” said Ndlovu.
”Life and netball after the 2019 Vitality Netball world cup in Liverpool was never the same for me. Everything has changed and would like to urge youngsters to follow their dreams and reach for the sky. Anything is possible,” she said.
The players also spoke about the agony of being part of a squad that almost missed out on the African Championships in Belville, Cape Town SA at the end of 2019 due the bureaucratic bungling caused by lack of resources and being instrumental in the Gems ‘ journey to the World Cup in Liverpool, England.
‘ I am raring to return to Zimbabwe Netball Gems after taking a break from international netball after the disappointing trip to SA for the African Championships.
“I definitely want to be back in that Zimbabwe (tunic) dress sooner rather than later, I think whenever the next time Zimbabwe take to court I’ll be putting my hand up ” says Ursula Ndlovu.
”Life after the Liverpool World Cup has been superb for me, It was dream come true, It was all like a dream. I have since managed to buy a stand and build a four-roomed cottage . I am glad for the opportunity and will be able to show my children what I achieved as a sportswoman. I have the proceeds to show apart from the rich and fond memories from Liverpool that I continue to cherish. Its every player’s dream to play & compete at the World Cup which is the pinnacle of sport,’ said Mauladi.
” I realised my dream of playing at the World Cup no matter what happens now. This is the time to not be too stressed out and worried about not training. Just do what makes you happy, if that’s shooting, if that’s having a little pass then that’s fine, you can do juggling, hand-eye coordination and be creative,’ said centre Nadiziveyi.
Like every netballer in the world, the ladies are eager to try and maintain their sharpness as much as possible before returning to the court.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe Netball Association (ZINA) president, Letticia Chipandu says the future of netball in the country is bright after securing sponsorship for a 16 team Netball Super League in March.
The 16 team Netball Super League is being sponsored by UK Dispora Insurance has been put on hold due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) since end of March.
ZINA who was under fire from some quarters for clinging onto power and refusing to hold elections.
ZINA has come under fire of late for failing to secure sponsrshipship amid claims of maladministration levelled by affiliate Rainbow Amateur Netball League officials.
She said the 16 team Netball Super League like all other disciplines has been suspended until further notice due to the coronavirus (COVID-19).
”The future of netball in the country is bright after securing sponsorship for a 16 team Netball Super League in March. The 16 team Netball Super League sponsored by UK Diaspora Insurance was put on in March due to COVID-19
Chipandu, however, declined to disclose the sponsorship package said a workshop also fully sponsored by the UK Zimbabwe Diaspora Insurance scheduled for the 24th of April has also been put on hold.
”We had resolved as ZINA to keep Zimbabwe abreast with the latest developments and techniques in netball. Godfrey Kanengoni who brokered the deal had finalised everything with UK Diaspora Insurance for the UK based Sport coaches and Netball Officials. We had already booked their tickets and participants were fully sponsored and we were expecting at 20 participants two from each province. It was meant to improve standard of officiating (umpires) and coaching (coaches) and different other aspects of netball in the country,’ she said.
Plans were also afoot to send the two best local clubs to compete at COSANA Club Championships set for South Africa later this year.
”We were supposed to preparing for the Africa Junior championships and had selected a total of 27 girls from the Super League and Division One team from all over Zimbabwe. we were supposed to begin camp on the 5th of April but players are training as individuals. We have players from Zvishavane, Vic Falls, Byo and Hwange,’ she said.
Chipandu said newly appointed interim technical Director Manfred Tanyanyiwa will be co-ordinating the training programme via online platforms.
‘We hope to be working on co-ordination and combinations once the coronavirus pandemic is declared over. The national under-21 is also expected to represent the country at the African Union Sports Council Region V in Lesotho,’ she said.
Only time will tell when it comes to the support for the sport in Zimbabwe, its funding and whether the infrastructure in Zimbabwe can be nurtured to drive this clearly extremely talented and passionate nation forwards?
The Zimbabwe Gems’ fans were loud and incredibly proud of the netballing nation that everyone else fell in love with too.
She said the Netball World Cup, campaign should be regarded as an unmitigated success.
”It’s a campaign that not only brought jubilation to this competition but is one that has set a platform from which netball may well grow from in Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe participated at the 2019 Netball World Cup (also known as the 2019 Vitality Netball World Cup for sponsorship reasons ) for the first time. The tournament was the 15th edition of the Netball World Cup, contested every four years. The tournament was held from 12–21 July 2019 at the Liverpool Arena in Liverpool, England with matches being held on two courts. Host nation England finished their campaign with a bronze medal, while New Zealand became 5th time champions after beating Australia in the final and Zimbabwe’s Gems a credible 8th position.
The Gems secured their place in Liverpool in August 2018 through the Regional Qualifier – Africa and the only side that they lost to was the She Cranes of Uganda.