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From Jess Anderson
They were the team which gatecrashed the World Cup.
They impressed crowds with their flair, and with their charm – memorably dancing their way on to the BBC’s television policy they charmed them off it.
The Gems of zimbabwe went into their Netball World Cup ranked 13th – but at one stage it was not certain they would be able to compete in Liverpool. They lacked the financial funds they desperately wanted to produce the trip and trained with no equipment or facilities.
But contend they did – .
So, having found themselves in the world platform, what does the future hold for netball from Zimbabwe?
Ahead of the World Cup started, a number of the players of Zimbabwe had played on a proper netball court.
Goal shot Joice Takaidza, who now lives in Australia, says the centers in her homeland are”the worst to train “.
“At school we play in sand and once you finish enjoying the dust will soon be in your throat,” she tells BBC World Service’s Sportshour programme.
“From the Premier League we play concrete reasons, which are very hard and very dangerous also since they damage your knees”
Funding is the main problem – as can be true in sports that are Zimbabwean.
As government minister Kirsty Coventry, an Olympic swimming gold medallist in 2004 and 2008, explains:”two weeks before the tournament, the Zimbabwe Netball Association had not raised the money that they had wanted to.
“We provided a lot of support to allow them to be there.”
Other funding appeals raised just #250 – a fall in the ocean for the likes of England and Australia – but it made a significant difference .
Yet the issues did not stop there.
Head trainer Lloyd Makunde had to head into Liverpool and spend # 30 of his money on equipment such as balls and cones when the team arrived in the UK.
“We faced many challenges,” states Makunde.
“We watched teams such as Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica if they were warming up, and we really did not have the gear when we were doing the practice.”
Victories over netball nations such as Northern Barbados Ireland and Sri Lanka in the World Cup revealed the possibility for further success.
However, where will the support they need come from?
England goalkeeper Geva Mentor is among those attempting to help.
Since viewing the disparity between groups Mentor has gathered gear and kit to deliver to less established nations.
“The gift is there,” she says. “It’s just trying to tap into that and be sure they understand what they’ve got and they have obtained the support around them for every one of these girls to be able to flourish.
“One of the most difficult pieces is actually finding people on the ground to distribute the kit and get it out into the rural communities in which people actually need it”
Coventry – the minister for youth, sport recreation and arts – admits the Zimbabwean government must put”different structures” in place in game, but states that there are bigger priorities in the nation.
“We’re going through a difficult time and you will find things within the nation, inside the economy, like medicines for individuals, like education for people… and sport isn’t up in this region at right now.
“So for me to sit here and say we would love to construct netball courts and football fields and swimming… it’s totally unrealistic and I’d be letting down thousands and hundreds down.”
Coventry is looking to collaborate with ventures and sport institutions to drive an improvement in facilities.
“I believe the athletes are demonstrating that we’ve got tremendous ability and that is not going off,” she says.
“So it’s all up to us to put into place the different structures that will allow for sport to become professional.”
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