The World Cup bound Zimbabwe senior netball squad returned home yesterday with vice captain Felistas Kwangwa saying the zeal to make history propelled them to qualify for the world showpiece in Liverpool, England next year.
The Zimbabwe Gems were in Lusaka, Zambia for the Africa World Cup qualifiers and managed to win all but one of their key games to book a place at the prestigious tournament that will be held from July 12-21 at the Echo Arena.
“We just wanted to make history, everyone was eager to be part of the history process and that propelled us to go that extra mile. We also felt challenged to emulate the Young Gems,” said Kwangwa who was the captain of the Zimbabwe Under-21 team when they qualified for the World Cup finals in Chile two years ago.
A product of the Bulawayo provincial youth games team who bravely fought an almost seven months knee injury to bounce back into the senior national team, Kwangwa said she will continue working hard so as to remain in contention for the jersey when the final team for Liverpool is announced.
“No one is guaranteed a jersey and I just have to work even extra hard now as I know more and more other players would also up their game but for now we are just so happy to have qualified and put Zimbabwe on the world stage once more,” she said.
Zimbabwe came second behind Uganda having lost 52-66 to the Ugandans in their last game on Saturday although they had already sealed their qualification.
However, for the African title, Zimbabwe eventually came third behind winners Uganda and second placed Malawi who qualified for the World Cup by virtue of their sixth place ranking on the International Netball Federation rankings going into the championship.
The Gems are one of the nine teams that have sealed their place at the game’s highest competition, alongside Uganda, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, South Africa, Malawi, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Samoa , Fiji and hosts England.
The next round of qualifiers will be for the Americas region from August 24- September 2 that will be held at the Garfield Sobers Gymnasium in Barbados where Argentina, Canada, Grenada, St. Maarten, St Vincent and Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago as well as the United States of America will battle for the two spots. The Asian region qualifiers will be held from September 1-9 at the Sports Hub in Singapore and Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong, India, Malaysia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Thailand, The Maldives as well as the hosts, Singapore will be competing to be in Liverpool.
Malawi 79,41 Zimbabwe, Botswana 28,53 Zimbabwe, Zambia 41,64 Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe 61,44 Namibia, Zimbabwe 58,42 Kenya, Uganda 66,52 Zimbabwe - Chronicle