Ellina Mhlanga Sports Reporter
THE ZIMBABWE Under-21 women national team put up a remarkable show at the ongoing Junior Africa Hockey Cup over the weekend to book their place at the Junior World Cup later this year. They beat Namibia 2-1 in the semi-finals on Saturday. With the top two teams qualifying for the global showcase, Zimbabwe and South Africa clash in the finals today knowing they will both represent Africa in Chile. Hockey Association of Zimbabwe president, Humphrey Chigwedere said they were impressed with the teams show in Namibia.
“Now it means they are playing in the final but that is for placing. The top two teams go to the World Cup. “The most important thing is we have qualified. We won 2-1 against Namibia in the semi-finals. We had lost 1-3 in the round-robin. So we are now hoping that the government can take us seriously,” said Chigwedere.
The tournament was played in a round-robin before the teams went for semi-finals and a win against Namibia saw the team securing a place at the World Cup.
Zimbabwe went into Saturday’s match as the underdogs having lost 1-3 in the round robin matches. But a win against Tanzania and Botswana kept them in the run for qualification.
Zimbabwe will be returning to Chile for the Junior World Cup set for November 23 to December 4 having been there in 2005 when they qualified in the same section.
Chigwedere said they have to start planning for Chile now so that the team is adequately prepared and catered for.
“Firstly we are happy we have qualified. Its part of our strategic plan and it has happened just one year into our plan, which also speaks to us on doing well at international level and qualifying for these events like the World Cup and the Olympics.
“We are now targeting the next Olympics. The ladies have put us on the world map and we are happy that we are part of history.
“Secondly in terms of going to Chile the process starts now. Obviously when they come back we are going to set a fundraising committee in place so that they can compete comfortably. We have qualified under different conditions.
“We are lucky that the competition is at the end of the year, it means everyone in the team will still be Under-21, so we can keep these players together. From now on we have to prepare them with more international matches.
“There is the South African inter-provincials in April and we have entered a team. We are inviting regional countries to come for a regional competition in August so that when they go to Chile they would have played more international matches,” said Chigwedere.
The men’s side was set to play Egypt in the semi-finals late yesterday in what was expected to be a tough match considering that the latter is regarded as one of the best teams in Africa.
Meanwhile, the Sports Commission congratulated the women’s team for qualifying and said preparations for the World Cup should start now.
“The SRC would like to extend a hearty congratulations to the Hockey Association of Zimbabwe’s Under-21 ladies team for qualifying for the World Hockey championships during the qualifiers in Namibia yesterday (Saturday).