BY MUNYARADZI MADZOKERE
IT HAS been a very interesting semester break for Zimbabwe netball team goal defender and University of Zimbabwe (UZ) student Felisitus Kwangwa following the team’s brilliant Netball World Cup in Liverpool, England.
The Zimbabwe team returned home last week having charmed the world with their energy and spirit to finish a commendable eighth out of 16 teams in their debut appearance at the global event.
For Kwangwa, a second-year Economic History student at UZ, she had to face the gigantic 2,08-metre Sri Lankan goal shooter Tharjini Sivalingam as well as two of the best teams on the planet, World Cup champions New Zealand and their predecessors Australia.
In all this she recorded the tournament’s highest deflections and two player-of-the-match accolades.
Kwangwa hogged the limelight right from the outset after batting with and managing to contain the towering Sivalingam in Zimbabwe’s first match against the Sri Lankans, which the Gems ran out 79-49 winners.
“At first I was nervous because of the height difference between us. But after realising that she could not jump, we capitalised on that and we managed to contain her,” Kwangwa told Sports Hub.
Kwangwa also reflected on the overall World Cup experience as part of a history making squad.
“The experience was awesome, we got a chance to meet both current world champions New Zealand and Australia, who were the defending champions. We managed to give them a tough time though we lost both matches. I learnt a lot especially defensive- wise and I can only get better going forward,” she said.
But the team’s overall performance was not a surprise to the Correctional Queens star who, at just 24, is already looking forward to playing at the next World Cup set for Cape Town in 2023.
“I was not surprised at our overall performance because that is what I was expecting going to Liverpool. We wanted to leave a mark in our first appearance, that was our target and I am glad we managed to achieve it.
“Zimbabwe supporters were great in Liverpool. We felt like we were home. Their morale and support had a great impact on our performances.
“The dream for me now is to play at the next World Cup and be able to qualify the country for the semi-finals. I think as a country we have that ability to achieve that with the necessary support,” she said.
Growing up in Bulawayo’s Njube suburb, netball was never Kwangwa’s cup of tea. In fact, she was forced to play the sport while she was at Mtshede Primary School simply because she was tall and her breakthrough would come when she participated at the 2011 National Youth Games which were held in Gwanda.
It’s the year she was picked for the junior national team and she has since grown to become a stalwart in the senior team’s defence.
“My netball journey began in primary school at Mtshede where I was forced to play netball because of my height. That time I was not even a sports kind of person. The big journey for me started in 2011 when I was picked for the young Gems after the Youth Games.
“In 2014 I made it into the senior team and I have not looked back since. So far in my club career I have played for Freestars, Khami Queens and Correctional Queens from 2016,” Kwangwa revealed.
While she is pursuing a university degree, Kwangwa’s dream cannot be separated from netball.
“I want to play for the best netball clubs in the world and also become the best player in the world who is at the same time a graduate,” she said.
According to Kwangwa, one of the team’s secrets to their performance at the World Cup was to sing and pray before matches.
And at the end of the World Cup campaign, the team sang and danced, and famously gate- crashed BBC TV coverage of the tournament.
Semester breaks do not come any better.