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Kwinji 15 – the best there was

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She was a great midfielder, confident on the ball and was a good distributor of the ball and was a crowd favourite during her tenure as a Mighty Warriors player.

That is Sithethelelwe Sibanda for you, better known as Kwinji 15.

She can be rated as among the first women to have made Zimbabweans move from the traditional norm that football is a men’s sport.

Together with players like Nomsa “Boyz” Moyo, Mighty Warriors coach Rosemary Mugadza, Precious “Gringo” Mpala and Ruth Banda- Nyandoro, their type of play proved to be irresistible for football followers.

Women’s sport was by then confined to sports like netball, basketball, volleyball and tennis as it was unheard of for a girl to play football.

Despite facing resistance at first, Sibanda was not deterred as she had passion for football.

“I started playing football when I was in Form One at Mzilikazi High School. During my spare time I wanted to play with the boys. It was not popular then, but eventually my family accepted,” she said.

“My family started to accept that I wanted to play football when we had our monthly tournaments that were sponsored by Induna Foods. New Orleans were winning everything on offer at that time. I would get vouchers as I would win awards like the Player of the Tournament or the Top Goalscorer. They began to see the talent I had because of the accolades I was winning, and after that they accepted,” she added.

Her exploits on the field of play did not go unnoticed.

“When I was in Form Two we had a girls’ tournament at Gifford High School. I was voted the Player of the Tournament and Top Goalscorer. The late New Orleans director Haverson Masilela came to talk to my brother Nathan and asked him to allow me to join women’s football soon after the tournament. That is how I joined New Orleans.”

She later moved to Mandwandwe. “My first game for the national team was a friendly match where we won 2-0 against Mozambique in 1998. That is when we started being recognised with players like Precious, Ruth, Nomsa and Rosemary,” she said.

She rates former Mighty Warriors coach and current Zifa Board member (competitions) Benedict Moyo as her best coach.

“Benedict Moyo was my best coach. That was a good technical team which also had Stanford ‘Stix’ Mtizwa, goalkeepers coach Peter ‘Oxo’ Nkomo and Doctor Nick Munyonga. They all motivated us and I think that contributed to our success,” added Sibanda.

By the year 2002 women’s football had reached its peak and hosting the Cosafa Women’s Tournament was a milestone achievement.

Zimbabwe lost to South Africa in the final of the tournament, but proved to be a thorn in the flesh for many countries.

The Mighty Warriors were then unstoppable as Mpala and Banda- Nyandoro were ruthless upfront.

“I think it was because we had good ball players who used to supply clean passes upfront. We were physically fit and we had very good strikers in Ruth and Precious who utilised most of the chances they got,” she said.

By then it had become to dawn to football fans that women could also play the sport.
She hung up her boots in 2010 owing to various commitments.

“I was having too many work commitments and I used to travel a lot. I was losing consistency as I could not train all the time and that affected me so I decided to quit,” she said.

Sibanda said Dynamos fans gave her the name “Kwinji 15” after former Highlanders and Dynamos striker Makwinji “Soma” Phiri.

“I am a Dynamos supporter. The Dynamos players said my type of player resembled that of Makwinji Soma Phiri and from then on they called me Kwinji and their support was great when we were playing for the national team,” she said.

On Dynamos winning the league and the inaugural Mbada Diamonds Cup this year, she said: “Dynamos played well in the second half of the season, I think their success was mainly as a result of Cuthbert Malajila who was at the top of his game,” she added.

She described former Zimbabwe Saints, AmaZulu and Warriors midfielder Ronald “Gidiza” Sibanda as one of the best players to emerge from Zimbabwe.

“Sibanda was a good passer of the ball. I used to enjoy watching him play. Internationally, I support Liverpool and Steven Gerrard is my favourite player,” she said.

She is coach of New Orleans and works at Methembe Ndlovu’s Grassroots Soccer as a curriculum development and training officer. She is eager to advance her coaching skills.

And she has already attained a Level Three certificate and is one of the few women who hold a CAF C Licence.

Sibanda was born on November 16, 1981 at Insiza Hospital and has a seven-year-old son, Qhubekile Prince Ncube.

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