HARARE – Zimbabwe Under-21 women’s hockey team returned from Namibia yesterday where they finished second behind South Africa to qualify for this year’s World Cup to be held in Chile. By Austin Karonga
The squad secured their World Cup ticket after defeating hosts Namibia 2-1 in the semi-finals before going on to lose 10-0 to South Africa in the final.
The Under-21 women’s hockey side last qualified for the World Cup in 2005 which was ironically hosted by Chile as well.
Coach Trish Davies praised her young ladies for putting up a spirited performance in Namibia.
“For the girls it was absolutely unbelievable. I ran onto the field and that said something after I played so long ago. It was beautiful honestly; they were so pleased, it was such an achievement to make this World Cup,” said the former national team player, who part of the famous Golden Girls team which won Olympic gold in 1980.
“The last time we played South Africa four years ago, our girls got beaten 21-0 and I think there’s an improvement and we are catching up.”
Captain Stephanie Campbell, who scored the winning goal in the semi-final win against the hosts, travelled straight to university in South Africa but told the Daily News how grateful the entire team is after securing their ticket to Chile.
“I felt very privileged to have been asked to lead the Zimbabwe team. And the team together had such heart which made it so amazing to lead,” Campbell said.
“The fact that we qualified showed how we didn’t once give up and we fought to the end. It’s amazing to have been able to lead such a lovely group of girls.”
Hockey Association of Zimbabwe secretary general Sarah Bennett, who was also in Namibia as a technical official, said: “It’s definitely an advancement for Zimbabwe hockey for both the ladies and the men and it’s definitely a step in the right direction for Zimbabwe sport and hope this is gonna encourage the youngsters in the communities to pick up their sticks and continue to play.”
The men’s Under-21 side also travelled to Namibia but they failed to win a World cup berth after finishing third.
“Obviously, everyone’s dream is to win gold or silver and qualify for the world cup but realistically our expectations were to come third because Egypt and South Africa are on a different level, to us it was really nice to come third and steal the medal from the hosts,” captain Graydon Thornton said.
“It was really nice (ladies’ victory) we were there at the game supporting them, they did steal it away from Namibia and they fully deserve it and I wish them the very best of luck in Chile, I know they are going to do their best and make the country proud.”