Chipandu rallies behind Gems

Sports Reporter

AS the countdown to the joint African Championships and 2019 World Cup qualifiers in Lusaka, Zambia continues, Zimbabwe Netball Association president Leticia Chipandu believes this time to break the jinx and book a ticket to the global competition.

The African Championships will run from August 13 to 18 and are serving as a qualifier to the next year’s World Cup in Liverpool, England.

Zimbabwe, who are the former African champions, having won the title in 2015, will this year be targeting both the African championships and one of the tickets to next year’s global showpiece.

The Gems are seeking to make their debut appearance at the world stage.

Chipandu said looking back, when they missed the 2015 World Cup in Australia and where they are now, they were in good position to challenge for one of the tickets to next year’s edition.

“Our chances, this time, are actually high because we have had a lot of exposure since then,’’ said Chipandu.

‘’We have had a number of tournaments that we have participated in.

‘’Last year we went to Hong Kong, we went for the Pent Series in Namibia. And in all those tournaments we got gold.

“We then came third at the Africa Championships in Uganda and at the just-ended Pent Series we got silver.

‘’So all these tournaments were like preparations for Zambia. So this has been very personal, especially for the girls.

“Apart from being the Africa champions at some point, we got gold in most of the tournaments we have been participating in and the girls feel like they are there on top with their game.

‘’We expect this to propel them to do well.’’

Coach Lloyd Makunde, who is yet to name his final team, is content with the work they have put in towards the championships.

Some of the players that are in camp include senior stars like Pauline Jani and Perpetua Siyachitema.

Goal defender Felistas Kwangwa, who was out since last year because of injury, also bounced back into the squad.

The technical team have also roped in young players such as goal-shooter Sharon Bwanali.

Chipandu said the championships in Zambia will also present the players with the opportunity to market themselves.

“This platform is going to expose them, for example, the young players like Sharon Bwanali, who is just coming from the Under-21 team and Mercy Mukwadi,’’ said Chipandu.

“In terms of preparations I think we have tried our best looking at the capacity we have as an association.

‘’But we want to say we can still do much better to market the sport and get sponsorship from the corporate world. There is still a lot to be done.’’

Zimbabwe will begin their campaign against Malawi and Botswana on August 14.

They clash with Zambia the following day.

On August 16 they are up against Namibia before facing Kenya and Uganda on the 17th and 18th.

The matches will be played in a round-robin format and the top two teams from this tournament join South Africa and Malawi for the World Cup.

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