Softball for World Cup Qualifiers

Ellina Mhlanga Sports Reporter
ZIMBABWE’S senior women softball team are hoping to bounce back into action this month when they take part in the WBSC Africa Division World Championships qualifier in Pretoria, South Africa.

The qualifier is scheduled for January 11 to 15 with 12 countries expected to battle it out for the two slots to the global showpiece in Japan in August. The national senior team have not been active for some time now due to lack of funds.

National teams’ manager Kudzionera Madhodha said a 25-member squad selected during the inter-provincial tournament last December is scheduled to go into camp tomorrow at Mabelreign Girls High.

“So far we have selected 25 players from four provinces, that’s Bulawayo, Harare, Midlands and Mashonaland West. We were supposed to start camp on Wednesday but we postponed it to this Friday because we are facing financial challenges. We are trying to cut down the costs.

“But preparations have been going on very well in their respective provinces despite the challenges as a small association. Like tomorrow they are having practice sessions in their respective provinces,” said Madhodha, who added that they were looking at raising $11 000 for the trip to South Africa.

Madhodha said since this will be their first major competition since 2009, it will mostly be a learning curve for them but is also fancying their chances of making the top two.

“To be frank we are going there to learn but it’s not just learning, we are trying to make our presence felt. So there are just two slots for Africa, the top two go to Japan and we are fighting to be among those two,” said Madhodha.

Madhodha noted that apart from financial woes affecting their participation in continental and international events, there wasn’t much happening at club and provincial level until the last two years. He added that the development has been a source of encouragement in their bid to revive the senior national teams.

“The last time we (seniors) took part was in 2009 and from there up to now we have been sending the Under-19s for regional championships and tournaments in South Africa. But now because clubs and provinces are running, we are reviving the senior teams,” said Madhodha.

The two countries that would qualify for the World Championships will also automatically get two of the five slots reserved for Africa, for Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Zimbabwe Softball Association president Stonard Mapfumo underscored the importance of the team’s participation in the qualifier.

“There are two slots for Africa…Countries qualifying for the World Cup will automatically pick two slots for the Olympics and then we will be left with three. For us as a country we are better off playing to qualify for the World Championships and then automatically qualify for the Olympics because we would have picked one of the slots for Africa.

“If we fail it means we have to fight another day for the three slots left, that’s why it’s very crucial for us to go, play and qualify,” said Mapfumo.

Some of the countries expected at the qualifying event include Botswana, Lesotho, Kenya, Uganda, Zambia and the hosts South Africa.

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