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Gems national netball team hit hard by Covid 19


By Nyaradzo Nyere

The game of netball brings much joy to Lorraine Manjoro, who plays the centre and wing attack for the Zimbabwe National Netball team, The Gems. 

She has been playing the game since 2003, but Covid-19 has blocked her enjoyment of the sport she loves.

“Because of inactivity and lack of games, fitness levels have gone down and we will need a long time to train before getting back or beyond those fitness levels. As for our rankings, I believe lack of international games will affect us as other nations were playing (and) accumulating points,” says a crestfallen Manjoro.

Felistas Kwangwa, the Gems’ captain who also plays goal defence and goal keeper, says she has been playing netball for 16 years. She agrees with Manjoro that Covid-19 has had adverse effects on the game.

“It’s quite hard to survive in this Covid time.We last had a competitive league in 2019, and in 2020 everything was halted because of the lockdown. 

“It would be helpful if we have some relief funds to support the netball players (so that they are) able to feed their families and have necessities of life because as of now, it’s very hard for someone to secure a job,” she says.

Kwangwa says she is fortunate enough to play for a team in England but she feels for her teammates who rely on bonuses and sponsorship from the corporate world and are not able to generate any other income due to restrictions  to curb the spread of coronavirus infections.

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Gems coach Lloyd Makunde says the virus has affected the sporting sector very badly and life has become difficult for most people in the sector.

“It has also affected the fans some of who can’t do without watching and supporting local sports every weekend as it is part of entertainment for many people. Netball players have suffered a lot as they have been inactive for almost the entire lockdown since March last year.

“So now most players are no longer fit and some have actually gained weight,and it will be hard to get them into shape again. This will also affect the national team’s world rankings if this inactivity continues as some countries are participating in regional and international tournaments.” 

Manjoro says she is fortunate as she is employed.

“I’m employed in the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Service therefore income has been constant as we continued with our duties when sport was suspended. 

“But I’m quite certain those players that do not have a fixed salary but only get paid by being on the court have been dealt a big blow over the past year as sport was suspended. We regard sport as an industry for survival.”

Makonde says he is thankful for the money from the government’s relief fund which they received in 2020 but thinks more still needs to be done.

“We hope there can be other efforts to relieve players in this situation as even other industries have been affected as well,” he says and adds: “I also think that clubs should assist their players financially since this is no one’s fault that we have come to be where we are as far as Covid is concerned.”

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