HARARE (Zimbabwe) – Six years since their last appearance at the biggest women basketball showpiece in Africa, Zimbabwe are anxious to get back to the high table.
That they missed out on the past two editions has reawakened a strong desire to get back to where they belong but in their way lies a giant so big that they will need to unearth magic and extraordinary abilities to accomplish this mission.
Zimbabwe head coach Mxolisi Ndlovu is confident that his side has what it takes to achieve this objective but it will take much more than just inner strength. “IT WILL TAKE A LOT OF EFFORT, COURAGE AND DETERMINATION FOR US TO GET THERE. IT IS A CHALLENGE THAT WE ARE LOOKING FORWARD TO.”-Ndlovu
Against Angola, Zimbabwe will be up against perennial zonal champions and continental stalwarts that have won the FIBA Women’s AfroBasket twice in 2011 as well as 2013 and reached the Semi-Finals an incredible nine times.
In an exclusive interview with FIBA.basketball, Ndlovu admitted that for the home side to dominate the tournament, they will be looking forward to playing in front of their fans.
“It is a good opportunity for us to play in front of our home crowd. It will be a tough assignment as we will be playing against Angola who are a great and experienced team but we will go out there and give a good account of ourselves.”“WE ALSO HAVE SOME PLAYERS WHO ARE PLAYING OUTSIDE THE COUNTRY WHO WILL GIVE SOME GOOD MINUTES. WE ARE A TEAM AFTER ALL SO WE EXPECT EVERYONE TO CONTRIBUTE.”- Ndlovu
“It will take a lot of effort, courage and determination for us to get there. It is a challenge that we are looking forward to. For us to improve our basketball, these are the kind of games we should be playing. We look forward to the challenge and we will give it a good go.”
In his ranks, Ndlovu has assembled a youthful side mixed with experience over the years and the highlight of his selection is teenage sensation Maria Mutengo who represented Zimbabwe at the FIBA U16 Africa Women’s Championship in Beira, Mozambique.
Mutengo, who turns 18 on Sunday – the day that the tournament kicks off – is a symbol of how far Zimbabwe have come on rebuilding a youthful side that will bridge the gap between them and Angola as well as Mozambique in the Zone 6 region.
Her ever-improving game reading skills, an eye for the hoop and agility will make for good viewing as Zimbabwe seek for glory at the Harare City Sports Center.
Maria Mutengo, Zimbabwe v Angola – FIBA U16Africa Championship 2017
Ndlovu has summoned eight experienced players who play their trade in the southern region including Charity Chigumba, Emma Makoni and Stabile Ngandini who play in South Africa alongside Cynthia Mambo, Mary Chawayipira and Melissa Majonga who feature in the Zambian topflight league.
Dorcas Marondera and Gertrude Mapiye who are based in Mozambique and Malawi in that order are expected to provide a spark to this Zimbabwean side that has their work cut out for them already.
Marondera and Chigumba, who were also part of the Lakers outfit that represented Zimbabwe at the FIBA Africa Women’s Champions Cup 2018 in Maputo, will bring massive experience to Ndlovu’s side.
He said, “Their experience will come in handy to the team. We also have some players who are playing outside the country who will give some good minutes. We are a team after all so we expect everyone to contribute.”
Patience Chinhoyi, Sharon Chamwarura and Marondera are the only three surviving members of the 2013 squad that last played at the FIBA Women’s AfroBasket in Maputo.
The trio will be seeking to return to the big stage but first they must pass the big test.
The 2017 Semi-Finalists Nigeria, Senegal, Mali and Mozambique already attained automatic qualification and have been joined by Cape Verde and Cameroon who emerged as winners of Zones 2 and 4 respectively.
Story courtesy of FIBA.com