2023 Zim Sport in retrospect……. Cricket and football hit new low

Last month, the Chevrons hit a new low after failing to qualify for the expanded 2024 T20 World Cup as they could not navigate  past the Africa qualifiers with hosts Namibia and Uganda taking the two available slots.

IT is always difficult to celebrate a sporting season in which two of the country’s most popular sport codes make headlines for the wrong reasons.

The 2023 sporting season will always be remembered as the year in which the Zimbabwe senior men cricket team failed to make it to two consecutive ICC World Cups.

At the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup Qualifier in July, hosts Zimbabwe were pipped to the two available spots by Sri Lanka and Netherlands after losing a crucial encounter against Scotland in Bulawayo.

Last month, the Chevrons hit a new low after failing to qualify for the expanded 2024 T20 World Cup as they could not navigate  past the Africa qualifiers with hosts Namibia and Uganda taking the two available slots.

The team’s biggest undoing was losing to minnows Uganda by five wickets and ultimately giving up on the opportunity to take part at the global showpiece.

International football only returned to Zimbabwe in July after Fifa lifted the 17-month long suspension with the Warriors playing their international match in close to two years in the World Cup qualifiers against Rwanda and Nigeria last month.

It was the first time in the history of Zimbabwe football that a team has had to play a matches outside the country because there is no Fifa-accredited stadium locally.

An embarrassing situation also ensued in the local league when Harare teams had to find homes elsewhere as there were no Premier Soccer League accredited venues in the capital.

These were the two biggest dents on the Zimbabwe sporting scene in 2023.

Nevertheless, other national teams excelled on the international stage.

The Zimbabwe Under-20 rugby team continued with their dominance on the African continental April after they defended their continental championship, the Barthes Trophy, beating hosts Kenya 28 – 7 in the final.

It’s a title that came with the ticket to the Under-20 World Cup.

In March, The Zimbabwe under-21 ladies hockey team qualified for a third consecutive World Cup after finishing second at the Junior Africa Cup in Ismailia, Egypt.

The team managed to impress at the World Cup, which was held early this month in Chile.

There was also a World Cup appearance for the women netball team, but they failed to replicate their debut performance four years ago after they finished the tournament in 13th place at the 16-team event in Cape Town, South Africa.

In Liverpool the team settled for an impressive eighth position four years ago.

The Gems would go on to claim third place at the African championships in Botswana earlier this month. The men's netball team also impressed as they took silver at their maiden appearance at the Africa champions, losing to South Africa in the final.

There were also some cheers for the women's cricket team, who were crowned champions at the ICC Women's T20 World Cup Africa Qualifier 2023 held in Entebbe, Uganda, a fortnight ago.

On the local scene, Mhondoro-Ngezi based side Ngezi Platinum Stars won their maiden premier league title and will represent the country in the Caf Champions’ League next year.

Special mention goes to coach Takesure Chiragwi, who helped the team wrestle the title from perennial winners FC Platinum who were aiming for a fifth gong on the trot.

Dynamos won the premier knockout competition, the Chibuku Super Cup.

Individual stars

Sikandar Raza – the all-rounder is one of the most sought-after cricketers in the world. He flew the country’s flag at the Indian Premier League for Punjab Kings.

Raza had the most man-of-the-match awards, eight, in international cricket this year at the conclusion of Zimbabwe's home series against Ireland. He has single handedly carried the Chevrons in the last two years.

Marvelous Nakamba — the Warriors’ skipper flew the country’s flag with distinction earlier in the year after helping Luton Town gain promotion into the English Premier League. After falling out of favour at Aston Villa, Nakamba had a fairytale loan spell for the Hatters before he made a permanent switch during the summer window.

Themba Gorimbo — the mixed martial arts sensation became the first Zimbabwean to win a fight in the lucrative UFC after beating Takashi Sato in a welterweight contest at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. Gorimbo would go on to capture the interest of Hollywood star Dwayne The Rock Johnson who gave him a house.

Qadr Amini — The Ngezi Platinum Stars captain was voted the Soccer Star of the Year after a memorable season with the platinum miners after helping them to a maiden championship. Amini, who is a muslim, became an overnight celebrity after he went to receive his trophy flanked by his two wives Esther Master (32) and Millicent Ruvimbo Museta (27).

Precious Marange — the Lady Chevrons all-rounder was the mainstay of the team’s campaign at the T20 World Cup regional qualifiers in Uganda last month. She emerged player of the tournament while she claimed a memorable hat-trick against hosts Uganda.

Kirsty Coventry — the Sports minister flew the country’s flag in her own way after she was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF) in the United States of America in September. Among the honorees was Michael Phelps, the 28-time Olympic medalist, Phelps’ coach, Bob Bowman along with swimmers Missy Franklin, Kosuke Kitajima and Cesar Cielo.

Scott Vincent — the country’s top professional golfer flew the country’s flag high as he has done in recent years as he took part in Liv Golf League where he won a total of US$4,6 million. Vincent produced his career-best finish on the LIV Golf League after he carded 70-62-66 in three rounds for a 12-under-par total at LIV Golf Jeddah which saw him tie for third place, two strokes behind eventual champion, American Brooks Koepka.

Nalani makunde — the Gems star emerged the sixth best shooter at the World Cup with 218 goals despite the team finishing 13th at the global showpiece.

The netball player also recorded the highest individual score of the World Cup shooting 57/59 in the 13th/14th placing match against Barbados, walking away with a player of the match accolade.

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