Zimbabwe's maiden Netball World Cup campaign is under threat because of a lack of financial support.
The ‘Gems’ shocked the netball world with a fairytale run to the global showpiece in the United Kingdom, where they have been lumped into the same group stage pool as defending champions Australia for the July 12-21 tournament.
But despite the enormity of simply qualifying for the event, the world number 13’s have been starved of significant financial aid.
The team currently survives on donations from local churches and businesses, a far cry from the professional build-up Australia’s star Diamonds will enjoy for the Liverpool extravaganza.
Recent photos have emerged depicting the abysmal accommodation players were forced to endure in the lead up to friendly matches against Uganda. With rubbish scattered everywhere and bedding resembling yoga mats, conditions appeared insufficient for professional athletes.
I don’t think that @KirstyCoventry would have won all those Olympic medals if she had prepared as the Zimbabwe Netball Team is being made to prepare for their World Cup Final!— Hopewell Chin'ono (@daddyhope) May 2, 2019
This is how they are sleeping in a church space!
We should be ashamed of ourselves as a country. SAD pic.twitter.com/3j2pbXpv9G
The Zimbabwean Government had promised to fully-fund a preparation camp to Uganda in April. Instead, when no money came through, the Gems were left stranded in Harare, subsequently forcing them to abandon the first two games of the trip.
The Zimbabwe senior netball squad, Zimbabwe Gems leave for Uganda tomorrow on Gvt fully funded friendly matches in preparation for the— Ministry of Information, Publicity & Broadcasting (@InfoMinZW) April 30, 2019
Netball World Cup that will be held from 12-21 July 2019 at the Echo Arena in Liverpool, England. pic.twitter.com/hkWNHhlk7P
Zimbabwean sports minister, Kirsty Coventry recently responded to such criticism, saying on Twitter: “(The Government is) waiting for the federation to send budgets etc, which we have continuously asked for.
“Netball is not the only sport that has these issues so we are working on better structures for greater support.
“I committed my help to their World Cup last year and this hasn't changed.”
Yet, despite apparent pledged assistance, Gems spokesperson Maimba Mapuranga insists “governments here say a lot and do very little.”
The myriad of adversities facing the players has been further propagated with an absence of required training resources.
“We are being looked after by a local church,” Mapuranga said.
“They have given us a place to sleep, but we spend the day at the courts practicing.”
Most girls, residing in the poorest areas of Zimbabwe, have never stepped foot on an indoor timber court before this week’s games in Uganda. They work in various jobs to simultaneously support their families and their netballing careers.
The lead coordinator for UK Zimbabwe Netball Team Fundraising, Barbara Siyachitema has been pleading to team supporters - and netball lovers in general - to contribute, even a dollar.
“It’s complex but the bottom line is the girls need help,” she said
“This (World Cup) is putting us on the world map, the girls need every support they can get.”
Despite the uncertainty surrounding the World Cup campaign, Mapuranga insists the controversy has not affected the players.
“It does affect the top (non-playing staff), but the players just focus on playing and winning,” Mapuranga said.
“We feel like we need to win against (Australia), we intend to beat (them).
“Women in Africa are the lowest citizens, lower than children. We have a long way to go but we will focus on winning.”
Regardless of how successful the girls may be in Liverpool, the initial goal surrounds funding their travel. With the proximity of the tournament, Mapuranga insists they need it all.
“We do not have the funding yet, we currently have nothing, but we always have hope.”