Photo Essay: Africa Cup Netball Championship Featured Africa’s World Class And Struggling Netball Teams By Cheryl Roberts

24 Oct

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Africa’s continental netball championship, the Africa Cup was recently played in South Africa. It was held in Cape Town, the city that will host the 2023 netball world cup, on behalf of host country, South Africa.

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This headline championship of African netball, was meant to showcase the best of African netball and give developing netball teams a better chance to play quality teams and improve. The Africa Cup did indeed attract some of the world’s top netball teams; 4 of the world’s top 8 netball countries managed to participate in the African championship.

IMG_1329I say ‘managed’ because of the strugges it took for national teams to arrive at the continental championship and their subsequent struggles to be at a continental event with little support given to a national team required to perform at their best.

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Fixtures were done and posted prior to the tournament’s commencement. Tanzania just didn’t make it to the tournament. Kenya arrived on the morning of play and went directly to the venue to prepare for a match. Malawi, Uganda, South Africa, Lesotho, Zambia were at the tournament ahead of the opening day’s play. Host country South Africa’s team was well suported and well-resourced. Zambia made the journey to Cape Town, travelling by road transport from Monday night until Thursday about midday. Zimbabwe left for SA on the day of the championship. They missed their first match and lost the points.

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Some world class players like Peace Proscovia of Uganda and South Africa’s Phumza Maweni and Karla Mostert, didn’t play in the championship. With their new coaches, SA won the tournament, having to play hard to beat Malawi and Uganda. They were unbeaten. Malawi finished second and Uganda finished in third place with Zimbabwe fourth.

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Several sponsors and marketing brands and others associated with netball in South Africa had their brands proudly displayed at the tournament venue. Broadcast media was good; all matches featuring the South African team were broadast live.

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Many volunteer officials, involved in netball temselves, gave their time to ensure they contributed to the successful organisation of the championship. Lots of girl netballers also gave their time and served as ball girls.

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It was startling to note that water wasn’t readily available to be given to the teams as they prepared to play a match. The Zambian and Kenyan teams asked for water, to be told ‘there wasn’t enough to go round’. I wasn’t at the tournament as a netball official but I butted in and asked some officials why no water was available. Got told something about ‘teams being told to provide their own water’. I couldn’t believe I was hearing that! Damnit! Water and sport go together. You play sport and you drink water. The sponsor’s drink was available but not water. Whether or not teams request water or not, you understand that you are hosting a continental sports championship and you provide this basic requirement, whether its bottled water or tap water filled in containers. Here was tired Kenya, just arriving in the morning, going directly to the venue to prepare for a match, only to find out there was no tournament water available. That water stuff was a negative on the organisation of the tournament.

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What the Africa Cup did throw up again was the bad support sportswomen and women’s sports receive from African sports federations and African countries. The fact the Africa Cup was coming up, was known by African netball federations. Why were some travel and accommodation arrangements so shabbily done? Why did Africa’s netballers and some netball teams have to go through stress and anxiety before the championship and at the championship about their accommodation and food?

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Africa’s netball teams were very impressive at the 2019 World Cup and the International Netball Federation knows that Africa is fast developing and growing a massive netball foundation and memebership base. Africa’s netballers are quality and world class. African netball federations and African netball countries must step up their game to be much more supportive of the players and better tournament administered.

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Africa’s netball players are giving their best and making Africa proud. It’s time for African sport officials to stop looking after themselves only and to prioritise support given to Africa’s sportswomen.

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TEXT and PHOTOGRAPHS by CHERYL ROBErTS are COPYRIGHTED

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