By Ellina Mhlanga
As the Mighty Warriors begin another qualification campaign to the Africa Women Cup of Nations in less than two weeks coach Sithethelelwe “Kwinji 15” Sibanda has made a passionate appeal for support of the women’s game if they are to realise their full potential.
The Mighty Warriors were among the eight teams that made it in Yaoundé, Cameroon for the last edition of the Nations Cup in 2016 and they are looking to be back at the tournament at the end of this year.
Zimbabwe will begin their quest for a pale at the Nations Cup with a clash against Namibia and should they progress they will go on to meet the winner between Zambia and Tanzania.
But Sibanda’s focus at the moment is on the first leg assignment against Namibia in Windhoek on April 5.
However, it is the build-up to these competitions that always leaves a lot to be desired with preparations always limited due to lack of resources while expectations for the team to do well are high.
Their situation has also been compounded by the fact that the national league which should act as a base for national team selection has had its fair share of challenges due to lack of sponsorship, thereby affecting the competitiveness of the league.
Sibanda said with such a scenario where the league is still to be as competitive as it should be and inefficient structures for junior teams it will always have a negative effect on the senior women’s side.
“That is the first thing that can make or break a national team. Players don’t need to come from just a social background as if we are just a social nation. Right now it feels like we are a social nation if our national team is like a social team, if we don’t play (a competitive) league.
“Even if we go for the matches now it would be difficult introducing a lot of youngsters. You will introduce one or two so that they gradually get into the system. But if it was that competitive it’s easier to get any player to come.
“I think the whole thing is about sponsorship. My plea really is if there are any companies out there who can put their money in women football, it can go a long way in helping our girls. So that at least our national league is kept going.”
“Then another thing when it comes to the national team now, see what’s happening in South Africa where Sasol is catering for the women teams.
“If we can get such a company that can cater for our national teams and get our Under-17s, Under-20s registered for tournaments, when they get to the national team they would have had that exposure from the junior national teams,” Sibanda said.
Sasol are the major sponsors of Banyana Banyana. They first got into partnership with the team in 2009, and also sponsor the women’s league. They have retained the sponsorship last year for four years.
The sponsorship opened opportunities for Banyana Banyana, enabling them to take part in tournaments in Africa and abroad.
South Africa who have a bye in the first round of the AWCON qualifiers are set to be play Sweden in January as part of their preparations. They took part in the annual Cyprus Women’s Cup, which features 12 teams from around the world — mainly held in Europe between February and March.
However, back home it’s a different case as the coaches and players have to be content with the few resources available.
“Obviously any coach would like that (friendly matches) and it would be great to have such kind of preparation. So ours it’s difficult. It’s very difficult to be always put in this scenario.
This year’s tournament will be staged in Ghana between November and December.