Zim Under-21 women revel in Jnr World Cup qualification

Ellina Mhlanga

Senior Sports Reporter

IT’S another exciting phase for the Zimbabwe Under-21 women’s field hockey team after securing their spot at the FIH Hockey Junior World Cup to be held later this year.

The Women’s Junior World Cup will be staged in Santiago, Chile, in December while the men’s event is scheduled for Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The women’s team’s captain Jorja Jones said they hope to inspire more young players.

She was part of the team that competed at the 2021 edition of the Junior World Cup , held in Potchefstroom, South Africa.

“I am so proud to be captain of a side that has qualified to be part of the upcoming Junior World Cup. “It was a privilege to lead such a group of talented ladies who played so hard for their team and country at every opportunity.

“It is amazing for the future of Zimbabwean hockey and we hope that we will inspire many young upcoming players,” said Jones.

Jones expressed gratitude to everyone who supported the team in their journey to qualification for the Junior World Cup.

“We would like to say a big thank you to all our Zimbabwean supporters from all over (the) world. We felt you in our hearts each time we ran onto the turf,” said Jones.

Zimbabwe will be making their fourth appearance at the event. They qualified in 2005, 2016 and 2021. The 2021 edition was held last year in April following a postponement due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The women’s team continues to make positive strides despite limited game-time compared to their counterparts such as South Africa.  Interestingly, the qualification comes at a time when the world is celebrating women’s month.

Vice-captain Khanyisile Mzizi, who was also in South Africa at the previous Junior World Cup, said it has been an eventful week since their qualification last Wednesday.

“For the team, I think everyone is still buzzing with excitement because we are actually going to Chile for the Junior World Cup.

“I think people are ready and more determined, and more motivated to keep putting in the hard work so that we are actually able to get a result at the tournament. So basically I would say the atmosphere is just excitement and more motivation. People are motivated.”

Mzizi said competing at a bigger stage can open doors for the local players.

“It is the fourth time that we have qualified and because it is, we will have another opportunity. I think for women; it just encourages us to keep going.

“To keep trying to improve our skill set and to continue to inspire the younger ladies that are upcoming to continue playing the sport. I think because we keep making this mark and going to the Junior World Cup, it allows more people, more interest to the sport.

“I think there is so many opportunities for the girl child once they have started playing the sport. There are many scholarships that can be offered. So I think it’s a good way for opening doors for the girl child and I just think it’s a great opportunity for the sport to continue advancing,” said Mzizi.

In their last appearance at the Junior World Cup Zimbabwe finished on position 12. It was an improvement from the 2016 event where they were placed 16th.

For last year’s competition, the major highlight was the team beating Canada in Pool A that also included Netherlands and the United States. It was their first ever win at the Junior World Cup.

Mzizi is hoping for an improved show this year and knows they have pull their socks up starting with their preparations.

“For me I expect the team to obviously improve the position we came last year. Last year we came in 12th position and I do think that there is a high chance that we could actually come within the top 10 and I will push it as far and say top five.

“I do feel like there is a lot of talented ladies within our team. And I do feel that we will be able to actually come in the top five. So I think that would be the main goal for us as a team.”

At an individual level, she is hoping to continue leading and serving the team, and encouraging the younger players to keep going and getting better in the game.

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