Editorial Comment: Let’s give women sport teams support to excel
The Zimbabwe senior national netball team this week got a huge boost in their quest to qualify for the upcoming Netball World Cup following the announcement of a sponsorship deal by Spar Zimbabwe.
The support by one of the country’s leading retail chains will see the Gems getting the much-needed financial assistance towards their qualification journey for the next edition of the tournament to be held in South Africa, next year.
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.
Their mere qualification was a moment 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.
The 2019 Netball World Cup 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.
But their preparations were inadequate because of lack of sponsorship.
There was a late flurry of sponsors coming to brand the team towards 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.
They even shared depressing videos of how they had camped and the poor quality food they ate during the preparations.
The business community usually has the propensity to jump in when the coast is clear, probably to also take advantage of branding 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.
Women’s sports have generally been marginalised in Zimbabwe and do not receive the same recognition and support as their men counterparts.
The pampering that men’s teams get demonstrates the bias. But a closer look will tell you that women actually need more support than men because of the delicate provisions they need, especially when in camp.
Apart from the usual equipment, they have different nutritional needs to spur performance based on their biological nature, they need psychological support, toiletries, and all.
For the team to enhance chances of qualifying, they need comprehensive support. So the coming in of Spar Zimbabwe at this moment is very commendable.
The Gems are in the running once again for yet another qualification and the support from Spar Zimbabwe is expected to spur the team to greater heights.
The monthly funding from Spar Zimbabwe will go towards the provision of creating a high-performance environment for the Gems targeting direct athlete support for kit, camps and high-performance training support.
The sponsorship will also ensure the team has adequate preparations which include a series of month-long camps, regional friendlies and regional ranking tournaments leading to the World Cup Qualifier set for August 20-27 in Pretoria, South Africa.
Spar Zimbabwe will also extend their support to targeting netball grassroots development in the country’s communities to create hope for all.
The sponsorship for the Gems was made possible by the Zimbabwe Olympic Committee through the “Friends of ZOC Initiative”.
This came as another big announcement is expected to be made in women’s football this coming Monday.
Local philanthropist Walter Magaya who is also owner of local Premiership football team, Yadah Stars, is set to unveil a tournament which is expected to transform a constituency long on potential, but short on funding.
The landmark tourney will see the participants being moved into a bio-bubble, during the entire course of the tournament, where the footballers will also receive various forms of technical support.
It comes at a time when women’s football in this country has been crying out for a helping hand after its structures virtually collapsed with the Covid-19 pandemic struggle.
Women’s football was barely recognisable in Zimbabwe in the last few years but it’s the same constituency that brought pride to the nation when they qualified for the Olympic Games held in Brazil in 2016.
With adequate support, women have proved they can do it.
Recently, boxer Kudakwashe Chiwandire made history after winning the prestigious World Boxing Council (WBC) super bantamweight belt in Zambia.
She achieved the feat under difficult circumstances.