The Malawi Under-21 national netball team has automatically qualified for the Netball World Youth Cup scheduled for June 2021 in Fiji.
This comes after the International Netball Federation (INF) cancelled this month’s qualifiers and use the current INF world rankings to determine contestants due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has wrecked havoc across the globe.
The Junior Queens were scheduled to travel to Uganda for Africa Region qualifiers, but the latest development means Malawi has made the grade as the continent’s third-ranked netballing nation alongside top-ranked South Africa and second-ranked Uganda. Globally, Malawi is ranked seventh while South Africa and Uganda are fifth and sixth, respectively.
The Junior Queens have now for the first time since 2009 in Cooks Island, where shooter Mwawi Kumwenda was spotted by Australian club Peninsula Waves to become the country’s first netball export.qualified for the global contest
Malawi failed to qualify for the last edition Botswana hosted in 2017 after settling for an unimpressive fifth position during Africa Region qualifiers that saw them winning only two out of their six games. Then, South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe made it to the 20-team finals as the continent’s representatives alongside the hosts.
Netball Association of Malawi (NAM) president Khungekile Matiya, whose body presented a K83 million budget to the government for the cancelled qualifiers, on Monday described the qualification as great news.
“It is very exciting that we have automatically qualified for the global event after failing to do well during the previous edition’s qualifiers. This is a great chance for the Junior Queens to show the world that they are senior national team material and are good enough to attract overseas deals,” she said.
On what NAM will do to ensure the Junior Queens are well prepared for the global showpiece, considering that they do not have international exposure, Matiya said they will do their best to engage in serious preparations that will include frequent international friendly games.
“The fact that the junior national team has made the grade on a silver-platter means there is a need for very serious preparations. We were eager to gauge our strength during the cancelled qualifiers and now we have to rely on international friendlies and the Region Five Games in December this year,” she said.
Junior Queens coach Christina Mkwanda-Nsinji said they will assemble a strong team that will make the country proud by effectively fighting for the global title.
She said: “Most of the junior players are inspired by the success of senior national team players Mwawi, Joyce Mvula, Laureen Ngwira and Towera-Vinkhumbo Nyirenda,” she said.