As Zimbabwe’s netball team, the Gem’s, prepare for their fifth game against Barbados at the Vitality World Cup in Liverpool, England, fellow Zimbabweans around the world are cheering the team’s strong performance that has resulted in them qualifying to the second.
So far, the team has won two games against Sri Lanka and Northern Ireland, but lost two games against Australia and New Zealand.
Despite that, hopes remain high that the team will make it all the way to the end, to win the cup.
The team’s success has brought attention to the game of netball, which many Zimbabweans seemed aware of, including the fact that the national team, the Gems, had qualified for the Netball World Cup – the first ever for Zimbabwe.
“I have been hearing Gems, Gems and now I know what it is. A netball team,” said football follower, Oliver Musongoro who supports one of the country’s top football teams, Dynamos football club.
The hopes being pinned on the Gems – an all-female team, comes on the heels of what many have called a stunning defeat by the country’s male dominated national football team, the Warriors, which failed to advance at the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations or AFCON games, underway in Egypt
Zimbabwe’s female teams have been credited for bringing home many of the medals awarded to Zimbabwe over the years.
The country’s first ever Olympic medal came courtesy of the women’s hockey team at the 1980 Sydney Olympics.
Zimbabwe’s current sports minister and former Olympian contestant, Kirsty Coventry, also earned the country seven medals in swimming from the 2004 Olympic games in Athens, Greece, and the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China.
While the Zimbabwe women’s soccer team, the Mighty Warriors, did make history by qualifying for the Olympic Game in Brazil in 2012, they did not win return with a medal.
As more and more female teams qualify for regional and international competitions, comparisons have been made about the treatment of female teams over their male counterparts, which many say seem more supported.
While the Zimbabwe government helped fund men’s soccer team, the Warriors for AFCON, support for the Gems was or the Mighty Warriors, was noted to be much less.
Many, including sports analyst Tinashe Museti, hope a World Cup win by the Gems, will be a game changer for women’s sports in Zimbabwe and Africa as a whole.
“I think the girls deserve better. Even the President (Emmerson Mnangagwa) should look at them and say, thank you for doing us proud. Money is important but they deserve more than money,” said Museti.