BY HENRY MHARA
THE national senior women netball team, the Gems, received a shot in the arm yesterday when National Foods released a $250 000 sponsorship package towards their participation at the African Netball Championships in Cape Town, South Africa, a trip that initially looked doubtful because of financial challenges.
The money will go towards the team’s travel, accommodation, food costs and allowances. While the amount looks like a drop in an ocean considering the costs that are involved, the team’s new captain Felistas Kwangwa believes it would go a long way.
She urged other corporates to come on board and support the girl child, who are determined to continue with their fine performances after wowing the world with an exhilarating show at the Netball World Cup held in England earlier this year.
The Gems, making their debut appearance at the global showpiece, sparkled to finish an incredible eighth.
“On behalf of the team, I would like to thank National Foods for helping us to go and represent our nation. It was not going to be good for us and the nation to fail to attend the tournament because of financial challenges considering the performances that we gave at the World Cup. The only way we would thank you is by bringing back good results and to our rivals South Africa, Uganda and Malawi who are ranked better than us in Africa, please watch out. Please keep counting on us, we will not disappoint you,” said Kwangwa, who has taken the captaincy from Perpetua Siyachitema, who retired after the World Cup.
On top of the cheque, National Foods also promised that all the players who participated at the World Cup will also receive a food hamper every month for the next year, consisting of the basic products that the company produces, including mealie meal, cooking oil, flour, rice and an instant porridge product that the company launched yesterday. This is not the first time that the company has partnered the Gems. They also gave the team $200 000 for the World Cup.
“We supported the team before the World Cup, during and after the tournament. With the African Championships coming, they approached us to extend the partnership that we have and it’s something that we thought is a good initiative. They did us proud when they came eighth at the World Cup, but we know they can do better, and we know their story is not finished and we want to be part of that story whenever we can,” National Foods marketing executive Lawrence Kutinyu said.
“We deal in products that appeal and are used mainly by ladies and women in households, so we thought there is a strong link between what we make and what the ladies are trying to do. There is an initiative to try and uplift the girl child and it’s something that we want to be part of and to make sure that whenever there is a call, we will respond. We want to see our Gems continue with the journey that they started at the World Cup,” he added.
Only 13 players will travel to South Africa because of the financial constraints. The team is scheduled to leave for Cape Town this morning.
Felistas Kwangwa (captain), Beverly Chipadza, Queen Sigauke, Sharleen Makusha, Lorraine Manjoro, Patricia Mauladi, Ursula Ndlovu, Sharon Bwanali, Joice Takaidza, Progress Moyo, Tatenda Dziva, Linda Nkorongo, Claris Kwaramba