The Zimbabwe senior netball team is hoping to win the Hong Kong Tri-Nations tournament and possibly improve the country’s International Netball Federation (INF) ranking when the invitational competition begins this Thursday.
BY MUNYARADZI MADZOKERE
The team leaves the country tomorrow morning for Hong Kong where the Indies will contend with the hosts as well as Malaysia for bragging rights in the event slated for March 16-19.
On the latest NFL rankings, Zimbabwe sits in 17th place as well as fifth in Africa owing to commendable performances on the international stage in the past two years.
Zimbabwe Netball Association (Zina) president Leticia Chipandu expressed excitement at the chance to compete in world ranking matches.
“I am so excited for our netball team because this is the type of exposure we want as a sport. It’s a world ranking competition and we are looking to do well and move our international ranking from 17th to a higher position,” she said in an interview with Standardsport.
“It’s remarkable that we are number 17 in the world but we play very few international matches and if we played more games, we would be much higher than where we are.”
South Africa and Malawi are the highest ranked African teams on the NFL standings in fifth and sixth place respectively, while Uganda are 13th with Zambia occupying 15th place.
Chipandu also said the Hong Kong competition would go a long way in preparing the country for the Africa Championships and the Youth World Cup pencilled for Uganda and Botswana in June and July respectively.
“This is a great opportunity for us to prepare for the Africa Championships which will be played in Uganda in June.
It’s not a coincidence that three of our players in this team are 21 years and under; we want them to get that exposure before they lead the country at the Youth World Cup in Botswana later this year,” she said.
The Zina president expressed satisfaction at the meteoric rise of netball in the country in the past five years as the Zimbabwe team is now regarded a giant in continental netball.
“We have really done well in recent years and we need to do more. We have managed to spread the game to all corners of the country, taking netball events to the rural areas and we are already enjoying the benefits,” she said.
“We are also getting professional in the sport because we have a number of our athletes earning a living from playing netball. Right now we have a player who is on an international engagement in Australia as we speak, Joyce Ngwarai, and it’s all credit to the efforts being made to improve the sport in this country.”
In 2015 Zimbabwe became African champions after winning the fifth edition of the continental competition, beating Tanzania 37-18 in the final.
Last year, the under-21 team qualified for the World Youth Netball Cup after reaching the finals of the qualifier tournament in which they eventually lost to South Africa.
Perpetua Siyachitema (C), Fellista Kwangwa, Victoria Nkomo, Patience Mauladi, Pauline Jani, Paidamoyo Tinoza, Tafadzwa Mawango, Sanele Ncube, Tatenda Dziva, Mercy Mukwadi.