If ever there was an athlete that proved how a great showing at the Netball World Cup can change the course of a career, it would have to be Felisitus Kwangwa.
The Zimbabwe captain was one of the standout players of the 2019 tournament, impressing on defence and earning three Player of the Match accolades in her nation’s first ever Netball World Cup.
Her outstanding performances caught the eye of the team management at Surrey Storm and, after the Covid pandemic and some admin issues were dealt with,
Kwangwa became the first Zimbabwean to play in the UK’s Netball Super League where she continued to stand out for her defensive prowess.
Now, the 28-year-old goal defence is determined for her side to once again leave their mark when they take on the world at the Netball World Cup 2023 at the Cape Town International Convention Centre in South Africa this month.
“Zim is to bring the Cup home and if not, at least to do better than at our previous World Cup,” reckoned the confident Kwangwa, who led her side to eighth place in 2019.
“The team is comprised of great players with so much potential, and I think we are going to give our personal best which will help us to do better than the previous tournament.”
The captain acknowledges the road to Cape Town hasn’t been an easy one for Zimbabwe.
“From the previous World Cup there have been quite a number of new young players in the squad,” she said. “Unfortunately, due to Covid-19 everything had to halt which was a big setback in the rebuilding process.
“I am glad that even though we’re still rebuilding, we managed to secure a spot for us to compete at the World Cup for the second consecutive time,” she added.
“Unfortunately, we only got one Test series in preparation for the tournament and I think it’s also hard for the coaches or anyone else to measure success.
“Nonetheless besides all that, the association has tried to organise a number of camps for the team to prepare which is what is very important.”
Kwanga’s rise up the netball ranks has been a remarkable one, after being introduced to the sport for the first time at the age of 10 at Mtshede Primary School.
in Bulawayo. It wasn’t necessarily her first love as she was also excelling in football and athletics at the time, but her talent for netball was immediately evident.
By the age of 17, she was a member of the junior Gems and earned her first senior cap against Zambia when she was just 19. By 23 she had been selected as captain of the side, leading their successful qualification campaign for their first ever foray to the Netball World Cup in 2019. Along the way, she’s also completed an honours degree in economic history.
The prospect of playing in the greatest tournament the sport has to offer on African soil is an exciting one for Kwangwa and one that can have a far-reaching impact.
“It’s good for netball development in the continent, and a challenge to the African nations competing as we need to keep the Cup in our land,” she said.
“I think it will also be a uniting factor for everyone involved, promote women in sport, and encourage other nations who are working towards professionalisation of the game.”
Zimbabwe have the daunting task of taking on the top-ranked team in the world, Australia, in their opening match of the Netball World Cup 2023 on 28 July. They then take on Fiji on 29 July and Tonga a day later.
Details on tickets and travel packages and more information are all available on the official tournament website (www.nwc2023.org.za) with a range of tickets and packages still available.
Photo courtesy Reg Caldecott