BY MUNYARADZI MADZOKERE/GERALD MUTSVAIRO
IT was purely by coincidence that World Cup-bound Zimbabwe netball coach Lloyd Makumbe found himself in that sport.
Makumbe’s involvement with Zimbabwean sport started in basketball, where he coached a club in Mabvuku-Tafara in the late 1990s.
It was only until 1997 when a friend, Christopher Simeon, who was coach of a second division netball team, found another job at Zimbabwe Prison and Correctional Services that Makumbe was asked to consider coaching netball.
Now just over two decades later, Makumbe made history to become the first coach to lead the Gems, as Zimbabwe’s netball side is affectionately known, to the qualification for the 2019 Vitality Netball World Cup to be played in Liverpool, England, this July.
“It’s a funny story how I became a netball coach for a person who was deep into basketball. I was a basketball coach way back in Tafara in 1997,” Makumbe told The Sports Hub.
“But my friend was already coaching a second division netball team and when he got a job at the Zimbabwe Prison Services I was asked to fill in his shoes. I was asked to take over the team and I refused because I was sceptical of the sport.
“They literally forced me to take up the challenge and I had to learn the rules of the game from the ladies I was coaching. In no time I went to my first training with the Sport 4 All Project and, as they say, the rest is history,” he added.
The 46-year-old gaffer went on to coach Telecel, Marowa Rangers, Gaths Mine and Renaissance, among others in the local league.
He won the Trust Cup with Telecel in the early 2000s and twice finished runner-up as well as bronze medallist in the league with Renaissance.
Currently, Makumbe is basking in the glory of his biggest achievement in netball to date —that is qualifying the country for the Vitality World Cup in Liverpool between July 12 to 21.
“It means a lot to me. It’s every coach’s dream to play at the World Cup. It is the highlight of my career and it’s always a proud moment when your dream becomes a reality.
“We worked hard and pushed with full force and that’s what made us to qualify. I see us doing well at the World Cup because I feel our team has one of the best forwards in the region,” Makumbe said.
The Gems qualified for the Vitality Netball World Cup for the first time after finishing second to Uganda at the Africa Netball World Cup qualifiers in August last year.
Zimbabwe are drawn in Group A along top-ranked sides Australia, Northern Ireland and Sri Lanka as they make their debut appearance at the World Cup.
However, Makumbe is more excited about what this qualification will do to netball in Zimbabwe going forward.
“Our netball will never be the same again. Even if we change the current technical team, I see us qualifying for the next two or three consecutive World
“We have prepared for long-term success. Our overage age in the team is only 24, meaning that most of our players have a lot of netball in them. Our captain Perpetua Siyachitema, at 35, is still at the top of her game and all these players can play that long,” he said.
Makumbe was appointed assistant coach of the netball national team back in 2017 ahead of the African Championships that were held in Uganda.
But what became of his basketball dream?
“The basketball dream was shattered just like that. My dreams are in netball now and I am happy that I took up the game. Now my ultimate goal is to see all the young girls in the country coming to play netball and also aspiring to go to the World Cup as these girls have done,” Makumbe said.