FROM the dusty streets of Njube to Liverpool!
That’s the story of Zimbabwe senior national team player Felistus Kwangwa, a 24-year-old sports personality who is part of the Gems team that is having a joyous first World Cup experience in Liverpool, England.
In an interview from Liverpool, the towering defender, who was named Most Valuable Player (MVP) twice when the Gems took on Northern Ireland and Barbados, says she was compelled to take up the sport by her teachers at Bulawayo’s Mtshede Primary School and Sikhulile High School.
“I grew up in Njube, Bulawayo, went to Mtshede Primary School where I was forced to play netball by my teacher when I was doing Grade 5. I was doing well but I left the game when I proceeded to Sikhulile High. I was so much into athletics but again one of my teachers forced me to take up the sport because of my ideal height,” said Kwangwa whose real soft spot for playing netball developed in 2011 when she was part of the Bulawayo Province team that took part in the annual Zimbabwe National Youth Games in Gwanda.
“Special mention goes to my coach Menfree Tanyanyiwa and my manager Lisa Mangena. From 2011 to 2013 I played for Freestars at club level and I later joined Khami Queens. When I got transferred to Harare in 2016, I started playing for Correctional Queens,” said the 1,73 metres tall defender.
Kwangwa, whose family members reside in Pelandaba West, started doing duty for the junior national sides in 2012 at the age of 17. She captained the Golden Girls at the 2014 Region 5 Games and also led the team at the 2018 Junior World Cup Qualifiers in Botswana.
She became part of the senior netball team in 2014 and a year later she was named the vice captain going on to shine at the 2017 Tri-Nations Tournament and at the 2019 Telkom Tournament in SA held in May where she was named the Most Valuable Player (MVP) a feat that, with so much ease, she has achieved at the ongoing Vitality Netball World Cup.
Her breathtaking netball skills have not been ignored by foreign media outlets and according to Sky Sports Kwangwa has made a huge impression and there is already talk of interest from the Vitality Netball Superleague.
But the girl from Njube says: “I haven’t heard about that at the moment. I’m just concentrating on the job at hand.”
Unfortunately, it has been heartbreaking for her father Simeon and other family members as they could not watch Gems star on the grand stage due to a technical glitch with their satellite TV service provider.
“I have just been hearing from around that my daughter has been doing well in Liverpool. As a family we are very much happy. Her mother (Pretty Mzondo) is happy with what she is doing. We heard about the Most Valuable Player awards that she got.
“Unfortunately, we have not seen her in action. We can’t blame that on the Zesa loading shedding because we have solar panels. We could not watch her play due to a DSTV technical glitch. We paid for our DSTV subscription weeks ago but there was no joy for us. We were surprised to be told the subscription had expired,” said Simeon.
The Gems plunged into the Liverpool battle as underdogs.
However, Lloyd Makunde’s side has been impressive and by Thursday, before taking on Malawi, their only losses had come at the hands of champions Australia and New Zealand.
A win for the Gems against the flames of Malawi on Thursday would see them moving into third place in Group F, which gives them the opportunity to challenge for the top six in the Play-offs and Placings where they will face a team from Group G.
Teams finishing first and second in Group F and G go through to the semi-finals while the teams finishing third and fourth from the two groups compete for final positions fifth to eighth.
Group G is made up of England, South Africa, Uganda, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and Scotland.
On Thursday Zimbabwe were ranked fourth in Group F and were guaranteed of a top eight finish.