OHEN the senior women’s national football team — the mighty warriors —qualified to play in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, there were high hopes that their historic achievement would open “the floodgates” for more of that country’s team sports codes to follow suit and qualify for the biggest sporting tournament in the world. showcase.
In fact, when the Mighty Warriors clinched their ticket to the Rio Games, they wrote their own piece of history by becoming the second team sport, after women’s field hockey’s “Golden Girls,” to represent the Zimbabwe at the Olympic Games since the achievement. independence in April 1980.
Zimbabwe’s women’s field hockey team was the first to win a gold medal for the country at the Moscow Olympics in 1980 after receiving a special invitation from the International Olympic Committee to play in the boycotted Summer Games in the then Soviet Union (now Russia).
And after this historic achievement of the “Golden Girls”, Zimbabwe had to wait 36 years for another team sport code to qualify for the Olympics when the senior women’s national football team — the mighty warriors — made themselves and the nation proud by qualifying for the Rio Games in Brazil in 2016.
It’s a sad scenario considering that Zimbabwe has a number of team sports codes, such as basketball, men’s and women’s field hockey, volleyball, handball, football (less 23-year-old men) and rugby sevens, which could have made it to the Olympics. Games long before the qualification of the Mighty Warriors for the Rio Games.
But what is the problem and why did these team sports codes fail to qualify for the Summer Olympics?
Crispen Mhike, the principal of Heritage Secondary School, recently made an interesting observation about the continuing failure of our team sport codes to qualify for the Olympics.
He posed a number of serious questions, asking why should we send teams to compete on the world stage before competing locally? Is there a real field hockey league in Zimbabwe?
Mhike said we are sending athletes to the Olympics before they compete locally in the Zimbabwe Open competition. For example, he said, who is the current Zimbabwe 100m champion? Who is the Zimbabwean men’s 100m butterfly champion? Who is the Zimbabwe tennis champion?
We agree with Mhike.
The majority of our team sport codes have failed to provide a viable or appropriate league system where clubs or teams play their matches on a weekly basis at regional, provincial or national level.
Disciplines such as basketball, volleyball and handball are mostly played on a social level where undercooked players meet up every other weekend to play their so-called league games.
Handball, for example, has failed in recent years to come up with appropriate structures for a viable league system that encompasses junior and senior teams nationally.
In fact, the Zimbabwe Handball Federation only gathers its juniors for sort of periodic training camps, mainly in Harare, under the pretext of preparing them for certain international tournaments.
But what is mind blowing is where these players are from as we understand that there are no real handball clubs to speak of in Zimbabwe and if there are do they play in n’ any league, be it Harare, Mashonaland East, West and Central, Midlands, Matabeleland North and South; and Manicaland?
Same for basketball and volleyball.
For now, let’s not talk about football. The country’s chances of qualifying the men’s national under-23 football team for the Olympics are next to nil as there are no youth football structures to speak of in Zimbabwe at the moment.
In his recent article in The Herald, Mhike said it was high time we brought sport to the masses if Zimbabwe was to become a force to be reckoned with in sport in the Southern Africa region and in Africa.
“That’s what I think we should do with our sport if we want to improve,” Mhike said.
“National sports associations must bring the sport to as many people as possible in Mbare, Rimuka, Pfupajena, Magwegwe, Sakubva, etc. rugby in Mbare and when ‘Doc’ brought hockey to Triangle.
“Many will say that the development of sport needs money, but the people I mentioned above weren’t rich. They just had a passion and a vision. Are we in leadership positions because we have a passion and a vision or because we simply want the prestige and benefits of being at the top?
“I advocate a scenario where we send teams that have competed locally on the world stage. (Middle distance runner) Vimbai Maisvorewa is expected to come and run the 400m here in Zimbabwe before she can be considered for the Olympics, although she is based in the United States where she has access to better facilities and everything.
“Our hockey, rugby, handball, etc. should have teams that compete locally before competing internationally.
“Finally, without proper high performance centers, we are going nowhere. Let’s establish high performance centers in all our provinces. Our school sports systems and clubs cannot meet the needs of elite athletes,” said Mhike.
And it can’t be far from the truth. Planning, preparing and executing the process are fundamental if we are to succeed on the world stage.
Our National Sports Associations need to do some serious soul-searching and put in place appropriate professional structures that will enable our athletes to take sport seriously if we are to have a big impact at major international events such as the Olympics and All Africa Games. .
Unfortunately, most of these national sports associations do not have full-time administrators and offices; and are managed on a voluntary basis (from homes), mostly by unqualified staff and this is another area that urgently needs to be addressed in this country.