Inside sport with MICHAEL KARIATI
The 2019 Netball World Cup is only three months away in Liverpool, England, but the Zimbabwe team, the Gems, are still to get into serious preparations for the 16-team global sporting festival.
Funds have been hard to come by, and-as a result, the team has failed to play serious opposition from other parts of the world, but have been restricted to neighbouring opposition, most of whom the Gems do not benefit much from.
It does not make any sense for the Zimbabwe team to be playing teams from Namibia, Botswana and Zambia since these teams have not only failed to qualify for the World Cup, but are also struggling to make an impact in Pan African netball.
There is nothing for the Gems to gain from facing such opposition as it is no different from playing against the top teams in this country or even a national team select whose players would be eager to impress and get a call-up into the national team set-up.
Fine, Zimbabwe took part in the Diamond Cup where World Cup bound Uganda and South Africa were in attendance, but the Gems are not facing African opposition at the World Cup, but Australia, Northern Ireland, and Sri Lanka, and needed European and Asian experience as part of their preparations.
What is disturbing is that the Zimbabwe qualified for the World Cup way back in October 2018, and by now, should have been rounding up their preparations with a stint in Europe and facing other teams that have also qualified for the netball extravaganza, but are not in their group at the finals.
It should be remembered that the World Cup and the Olympic Games are the highest stage any team or sportsperson strives to reach and a team that qualifies for such a competition surely deserves to be rewarded with government funding as happens in other countries.
It is a fact that the performance of these teams at these competitions reflects heavily on Zimbabwe as a country, but, sadly, the Gems have been neglected in the same way the women’s soccer team, the Mighty Warriors, was abandoned before the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil.
The Mighty Warriors travelled to the Olympic Games without having played a single competitive friendly match and the results of that were there for everyone to see as the ill prepared Zimbabweans lost 6-1 to Germany, 3-1 to Canada and wrapped up their group stage encounter with a 6-1 loss to Australia.
Worse still, the Mighty Warriors players were offered $5 for transport home upon their return from the global sporting extravaganza — a mockery of the effort they put in Zimbabwean colours at the Games and on their way to qualification.
Why is the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC) there when national team players are travelling to foreign lands for the World Cup and the Olympic Games without even a cent to buy themselves something to at least one day say: “I brought this from the World Cup?”
Why should the SRC and the Zimbabwean government as whole be reminded that our national teams need their support when, in essence, it is their duty to do so without any pressure being put on them.
More importantly, is the fact that Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation minister Kirsty Coventry knows exactly what is required to make national teams succeed at such competitions, but surprisingly she too has been silent on the team’s poor preparations.
Interestingly, the Zimbabwe national senior soccer team — the Warriors — are the only ones who have, at least, benefited something from the government. This started off in 2001 when the then Information minister Jonathan Moyo persuaded the authorities to part with $100 000 to bankroll the Warriors in their 2002 Nations Cup campaign.
The government also came to the senior men soccer team’s aid in 2017 when they forked out $1 million to the Warriors for their participation at the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations finals in Gabon.
This saw the Warriors receiving a $15 000 appearance fee each for the three matches, and a $400 daily allowance, but missed out on the promised $6 000 winning bonus after coming back with only one point from all their group matches.
Whether this was done to get public support due to the popularity of the Warriors is something else, but the fact remains that if this government could afford to support the Warriors in that manner, then it has the funds to also bankroll not only the netball team, but other national teams as well.
Why this is not being done when it is clearly evident that the money is there is something those in authority have never bothered to explain.
Surely, it is everyone’s wish that the Zimbabwe Gems do well at the World Cup finals in Liverpool, but it would be unfair to blame them should they fail because they did not — back at home — receive the support they needed most.
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