AS the new year dawns, it means the beginning of new things for some in the Zimbabwean sporting fraternity while for others it’s continuation from where they left in the just-ended 2018.
Athletes will be keen to meet set targets in 2019.
And most of the sportspersons from various sporting disciplines have expressed optimism that the year will bring better fortunes in their endeavours.
For rugby, 2018 was a bag of mixed fortunes with the Cheetahs having a good year while it was a different case for the Sables who failed to qualify for the World Cup following a poor run in the Africa Gold Cup.
In fact the Sables ended up fighting to retain their place in the elite league instead of grabbing a place at the World Cup.
But ZRU president Aaron Jani has expressed confidence this year should see them taking a step further in improving the games with a number of programmes lined up including a six-team national league.
“Definitely we are very optimistic, 2018 was a building year, we had a lot of stabilising to do and a lot of groundwork to do. I think now our fans can expect to see growth in 2019 because I think the foundation has now been laid.
“We are expecting quite a lot of things. We are expecting the standard for the national team to improve greatly. What we are going to do is that there is going to be an organised six-team league, so we are going to get the top six clubs in Zimbabwe to play in it.
“They are going to compete in a league and they are going to have 12 games and then have a semi-final and a final. And that’s should bring up the expectation in terms of the quality of rugby to improve greatly in the country.
“We had made our application, we have received the letter from the Minister of Sport which has supported us for the SuperSport Challenge and we have made our application. So we are hoping we will get an approval to participate in the SuperSport Challenge, which will be a South African competition.
“So from the Club competition, we are going to pick a team that is going to compete in the SuperSport Challenge once we get the go ahead. And from the SuperSport Challenge we are going to pick team that will participate in the penultimate Gold Cup Challenge. So this is the route we are following for the Sables,” said Jani. Jani said there are also plans in store for the Cheetahs to maintain the momentum.
“As far as the Cheetahs goes they have done very well. They just played their last tournament in Cape Town, South Africa, where they played against the very best in the world.
“They played against South Africa and it was superb for us to be back in the big league and we have shown that we can compete although we didn’t win any games there we proved that we are very close in terms of the games we played.
“So we are going to prepare a lot better with the hope that when we go to the Hong Kong Sevens in the first quarter of the year we will get to qualify for the circuit and that will put us in a different league altogether. So this is our hope for the Cheetahs as well,” Jani said.
For football, the gospel of development has been making waves with the newly-elected Felton Kamambo-led ZIFA board, which came into power mid-last month having indicated it is one of the key areas they are concerned about among other top priorities.
ZIFA president Kamambo has said their main objective is development that is likely to see the revamping of junior leagues and promotion of women football.
“Our thrust as a board is mainly on the development of football, futsal, beach football, women soccer and men’s soccer.
“What we have done is this coming year we are going to introduce junior leagues for both men and women.
“On the women’s side our target is to have a fully-fledged Premier League for them. Then we will have some regional leagues for women at regional level, then at the same time we will also have some regional junior leagues for women at regional level.
“Then for men, I had actually engaged the disbanded junior football league. There are structures that are there, so the board member concerned is going to make sure that we have some junior leagues starting next year (this year).
“For starters, we will have some leagues at provincial level in all provinces, then at the same time we are also going to instruct some PSL clubs to come up with some junior teams that will participate in junior leagues at their respective provinces.
“What we will then do is the Premier Soccer League is supposed to pay some money to ZIFA and that money will then be ploughed into the junior league,” said Kamambo.
Long-distance runner and Olympian Cuthbert Nyasango said he is looking forward to a better year with the main objective being qualification for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
“I am looking at qualifying for Tokyo 2020 as my goal and to improve on my fitness and make sure I continue to motivate the youngsters whom I always train with and inspire them. I am hoping also to see them doing well at their clubs,” said Nyasango.
Former World Boxing Council silver welterweight champion Charles Manyuchi, who of late has been more involved in promoting the sport through his Academy based in Chivhu, says there is still more to come and is optimistic of a fruitful year.
“I am hoping this will be a better year and everything will be back on track. I am 29 years old and I am expecting to retire at around 31 or 32 years. So I will be back fighting and also continue to uplift other boxers.
“I am hoping for a successful year. What I have achieved I got it from God, so He will continue to provide,” said Manyuchi.
For athletics, there is also a lot to look forward to in the name of the IAAF World Championships, the Confederation of Africa Athletics Under-20 and Under-18 Championships as well.
And National Athletics Association of Zimbabwe president, Tendai Tagara, said there are lot of areas they believe they can go step further in creating a conducive environment for their athletes to reach their full potential as the year begins.
“We want to seek and consolidate international partnerships for high performance beyond 2020.
“We also want to consolidate the home grown solution concept revolving around (sprinter) Ngoni Makusha as well as collaborate with our retired athletes inside and outside Zimbabwe for high performance, like Brian Dzingai, who has been very supportive on Ngoni Makusha’s high performance programme,” said Tagara.
Tennis Zimbabwe are also not to be outdone as they are hopeful this year will see the return of Zimbabwe Open and other senior tournaments.
They will also be hoping for a successful campaign in the Davis Cup after retaining their spot in Europe/Africa Group II.
They may have had a relatively quiet season with their major competition for 2018 being the IHF Zone Six Challenge Trophy tournaments but the Zimbabwe Handball Federation have remained positive this year will bring much more better fortunes.
“We are looking by starting with an Open tournament in March, then have several tournaments, provincial league games, national tournaments and international assignments.
“We will also attend invitational tournaments in and outside the country,” said ZHF president Stewart Sanhewe. Having led the national netball team to a maiden World Cup berth, captain Perpetua Siyachitema believes this is the year for them to shine as she said this year is probably going to be her last with the national team.
The global tournament will be staged at Echo Arena in Liverpool, England, in July.
“I am just hoping and praying if we can get sponsors that can help us with friendly matches outside Zimbabwe to help us prepare for the World Cup. We wouldn’t want to embarrass thousands of Zimbabweans waiting for us in the UK . . . We wouldn’t want to disappoint.
“I really think this is going to be another good year for us. I am just hoping it’s going to be my final year playing for the national team. So I am going to play like a teenager. I am going to give my best, all the energy I have reserved and will do my best,” said Siyachitema.
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Publish date : 2019-01-02 07:29:13