Ellina Mhlanga Sports Reporter
NETBALL coach Lloyd Makunde could not hide his disappointment at failing to be rewarded for qualifying his team to the World Cup, but the Gems coach chose not to speak much about it as controversy once again stalked the Annual Sports Awards.
Makunde and his team were robbed by some controversial judging criteria with neither the coach nor his charges being rewarded for defying odds and securing their place at the netball global show-piece in Liverpool, England.
Instead the ANSA judges chose rugby Sevens mentor Gilbert Nyamutsamba for Coach of the Year while Rowing won the Team of Year.
Makunde said although he was disappointed, he would respect the judges’ decision.
Despite their success story the Gems were named third behind rowing and the men’s rugby sevens team for the Team of the Year accolade at the belated annual awards held in Harare last Friday.
Makunde was the first runner-up for the Coach of the Year while Nyamutsamba won the gong for the second year running following his Cheetah’s success at the Africa Cup tournament.
The Gems coach said after leading his side to their maiden World Cup finals, he thought they would emerge the biggest winners at the awards.
“I never expected to be the runner-up or second runner-up. I just thought after qualifying for the World Cup and winning silver in Namibia and the World Cup qualification and bronze medal in South Africa I thought I would nail it.
“But unfortunately it wasn’t to be.
“I thought we were going to be the biggest winners today but it wasn’t for us to judge, so we can accept the judges’ decisions.
“I thought we will win, the team and the coach together, I thought we will be number one. But then we didn’t know what they were looking at so they are the ones who are best for judging. So we respect their judgement,” said Makunde.
However, the Gems coach said making it among the three finalists was huge for him.
“To be nominated it means I have won because to be nominated in Zimbabwe across all the different sporting disciplines it’s an honour to be a runner-up to the biggest gong a coach can have on this land.
“So it’s a win to me although I lost the big prize,” Makunde said.
Although Makunde chose to be diplomatic, the shock decision by the panel of judges also surprised
Sport Leaders’ Institute of Zimbabwe president Russell Mhiribidi who felt netball deserved to walk away with the Team of the Year award.
“Whilst I don’t know what criteria was used to select the Team of the Year, my thinking as a sports administrator and former sports-person is qualifying for World Championships, Olympics and World Cups is the pinnacle of any practising sports-person, sports administrator or sports official.
“So generally I would think, my general feeling, my gut feeling was simply netball, was going to be Team of the Year especially if you look at the hurdles that they had to overcome to get to the World Cup,’’ Mhiribidi said.
Mhiribidi also challenged the organisers of the award to also consider athletes from team sports for the Sports-person of the year award.
“And over and above that I also felt that the Sports-person of the Year doesn’t necessarily have to come from an individual event, let’s also promote team sport players.
“There are people, who excelled even in the netball team that should have been considered and so I am a disappointed, I am gutted,” said Mhiribidi.
The Sportsperson of the Year and Sportsman of the Year awards went to martial artist Wilfred Mashaya, who attributed his success to hard work.