They struggled to secure funding to participate at the World Netball Fast 5 Series tournament held in Melbourne, Australia but they are coming back with very good result — position three of six teams.
The six teams — Australia, New Zealand, Malawi, England, Jamaica and South Africa — are the world’s best netball team. Except for Malawi, the other five receive excellent support from various stakeholders for their domestic activities and international engagements.
They have state-of-the-art training and playing venues and they don’t need to panic as to where they are going to get their funding from because they are a marketing force on their own.
They attract so many other stakeholders from the corporate world because when they are participating at the international tournaments, the world watches.
It’s unlike here. Our girls don’t even have a proper court to play on. They play on hard surface and the venues are just a handful. There is no room for improvement because the sport is only seriously played in the urban areas.
The Southern Region is the boss of the game. Most of the national team players are from the South where the game is very active because there is a venue they have free access to at Blantyre Youth Centre.
We all are calling the Queens our heroines and yes, they deserve the honour and they fought for it on their own with some commendable support from Airtel’s annual funding and through other companies that support netball.
We will all trip over each other to be seen welcoming them. We will suddenly splash them with gifts and dinners upon arrival because of what they have done. Yes, it’s good to honour them that way but we must not forget that there are other tournaments the team need to prepare for in order to defend their status.
We must start now. The powers that be should make available the calendar of international events for the next two years and prepare a budget for it and plan where that money can be sourced from.
The Queens’ opponents don’t just go back home and start thinking of when the next tournament will be at the last moment. They already have a fixed calendar of events from which they religiously follow.
Netball has three major events — this World Fast 5, the Commonwealth Games and the World Championship. On top of that, there are some Test Series in which one team invites their preferred opponents for a three-game tournament, which are sanctioned by the world netball governing body.
Some call them friendlies but they are more than just a friendly match because the results from such matches earn points used for world rankings.
On top of that the countries know each other’s strengths and weaknesses which can be used for their advantage in the major tournaments.
We used to get exasperated when the Queens failed to attain the top three status at these major tournaments. We get mad when they get beaten by their arch rivals — South Africa. What we fail to appreciate is that the others are always playing serious netball against each other through the Test Series whilst the Queens remain idle.
For obvious reasons we cannot invite the world top teams to come here for Test Series because we do not have the right infrastructure to host such games. South Africa do come here grudgingly because they are forced to when we host the Confederation of Southern Africa Netball Associations (Cosana) tournament and the African Championship.
But I am quite sure they would refuse to come here for Test Series. We, therefore wait until South Africa or the other top teams invite us — and at their expense — to visit them for the Test Series.
Maybe — in the absence of the proper venues to host them — we can arrange to play Test Series in their countries and at our expense. In that way, we can earn some respect and they in turn can be considering us for their own Test Series.
We can agree with such countries that if they accept such an arrangement that we play host in their own country, we will claim the entry tickets to cover for expenses. Mind you, watching high profile netball games in Australia, New Zealand, England, Jamaica, Wales and South Africa does not come cheap.
Ask the Malawians based in the England — they will attest to it that entry tickets don’t come cheap. Several years ago when England invited the Queens for Test Series, entry tickets were close to K15,000 in Malawi kwacha.
But here we watch it free and we grumble so much when Netball Association of Malawi (Nam) decides to charge entry fee for the Cosana or the African championships. Fans literally climb over fences to dodge from paying.
It’s time we moved forward very seriously with netball and the springboard has been this result from the World Fast 5 Series.
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