EDITORIAL COMMENT: Gems should start World Cup preparations now SWEATING IT OUT . . . Members of the Gems squad go through some fitness drills in the gym.

THE Zimbabwe senior netball team are now quite clear of what to expect in their next adventure at the 2023 Netball World Cup in South Africa.

The draw for the tournament was conducted in East London, South Africa, on Wednesday and Zimbabwe, once again, are set to play number one ranked Australia, Tonga and Fiji in Group A.

This is the second time they are taking part in this netball jamboree after their debut appearance at the previous edition held in Liverpool, England, in 2019.

Then, unlike now, their preparations were characterised by chaos from the word go. 

They started off in Mbare where they lacked virtually everything to get a decent training camp before the corporate world and other well-wishers started flocking in late.

This was after sad pictures and videos from their training camp at a school in Mbare had revealed shocking conditions which they had to put up with in their quest to fulfil their World Cup dream on behalf of 15 million Zimbabweans.

Many people will remember how the team had to pull through difficult circumstances and qualify for the 2019 Netball World Cup held in Liverpool, England.

The accommodation was sub-standard, getting decent, nutritious food was also a challenge and they lacked sanitary ware, basic toiletries and other sundries.

They also faced nightmares in terms of securing air tickets and decent kits.

As a nation, it looked like we needed a push to celebrate the milestone of the Gems first-ever World Cup qualification. 

We had not taken it into consideration that their mere qualification was something to savour for the whole nation. 

It was the first time they had achieved the feat. Rarely do our sports teams qualify for World Cups.

But then they had to do it the hard way. Their preparations were not ideal because of lack of sponsorship. However, there was a late flurry of sponsors coming towards the beginning of the tournament, and it was helpful.

However, some of the sponsorship came a bit too late as the women had been struggling for a long time in camp.

The local business community usually has the propensity to jump in when the coast is clear, probably to also take advantage of branding and marketing opportunities at the big stage.

But the preparation phase is as important as the tournament itself. You do not have to wait until the team qualifies for a major tournament to untie the purse strings.  

For the team to enhance chances of going far in the 2023 edition, they need comprehensive support. We are quite happy with the gesture shown by Spar Zimbabwe.

The food chain group came at a time when the Gems were still in the running for their second World Cup qualification and the support from Spar Zimbabwe was priceless in the campaign.

The funding from Spar Zimbabwe went towards the provision of a high-performance environment for the Gems targeting direct athlete support, kits, camps and high-performance training support.

The sponsorship was also meant to ensure the team had adequate preparations leading to the World Cup Qualifier that was played between August 20-27 in Pretoria, South Africa, this year.

The Government also chipped in on several occasions with financial backup and there has also been support from business. And guess what? They achieved the feat without hustles.  

And now that they have qualified, more resources could be needed to prepare for the next World Cup finals that will take place in Cape Town, South Africa, from July 28 to August 6, 2023.

The benefits of playing and doing well at such international tournaments cannot be overemphasized.

The 2019 Netball World Cup performances came with a lot of positives in the sport and it also opened doors for individual players, whose talent had hitherto not been showcased at such a big stage.

Captain Felisitus Kwangwa was immediately snapped up by English side Surrey Storm and now plies her trade in the prestigious Vitality Netball Superleague in the United Kingdom.

The Zimbabwe flag was hoisted high on the world map with some stunning victories that made the Gem a darling of many. Who doesn’t want to see that again? 

Since there are still about seven months remaining before the next edition, isn’t it wise to start finding ways of supporting the team and intensifying their preparations?

It is always not good to wait until late.  Last minute preparations are never good for anyone. This is the time for the corporate world and other well-wishers to join the Government in supporting the team.

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