Fungai Muderere/ Nkosilathi Sibanda
IT is clearly noticeable that the recent trail of success by the national netball senior team, the Gems, in the Vitality Netball World Cup, is attributed to strong talent development at grassroots, particularly at schools.
Before the Gems made it to the world stage, netball was not the kind of sport on everyone’s plate. The last time the country was frenzied by netball was during the historic 2014 African Union Sports Council Under-20 Youth Games in Bulawayo.
But the sport has been on the schools calendar all along and that is where success arguably began.
Schools’ tournaments such as the Stella Tanganda Under-17 contest remain one of the few platforms where young talent that eventually makes the grade to the national team is honed.
The tournament is sponsored by Tanganda Tea Company and jointly organised by the National Association of Secondary School Heads (Nash).
Twelve schools will up to Saturday converge on Thornhill High School for this year’s edition, in what would be a fresh platform for young girls to show their best on court.
Pamushana will represent Masvingo, Mpopoma (Bulawayo), Plumtree High (Matabeleland South), Mabhikwa (Matabeleland North,) Mnene (Midlands), Parirewa (Mashonaland East), Mvurwi (Mashonaland Central), Mhangura (Mashonaland West), Mweyamutswene (Manicaland) and St Peter’s (Harare).
The trend with this tournament is that schools from Bulawayo, Masvingo and Harare have won the most. This is more to do with sport policy development in these schools, which are mostly in urban or in a private setup.
Pamushana High, the defending champions, got the crown for the tournament five times. Their first handle at gold was in 2012 up to 2015 and later in 2018. Bulawayo’s Sikhulile High, an academic institution that Gems vice-captain Felistus Kwangwa went to, became champions in 2016 and 2017.
Aside from the action, it is also expected that the netball tournament will light up the city of Gweru as schoolchildren and newly found fans of the game watch in their numbers.
No longer are such tournaments taken lightly, says Arthur Maphosa the Nash president.
“Netball in schools has been growing and it is pleasing that the recent performance by the Gems can only be rooted in schools. Now our sports will get notice and hopefully with more support. What the Gems did in Liverpool is a product of competitions such as the Stella Tanganda. We are grateful to the sponsors,” he said.
Tanganda Tea Company marketing executive Tsitsi Kumadiro said their drive at the tournament was to promote healthy lifestyles through sport.
“This time we are holding the tournament against a backdrop of an increased interest in netball in the country. As Tanganda Tea Company through our brand, Stella Tea, we are committed to uplifting schools’ sports and build communities for a healthy and sustainable life,” said Kumadiro.