The Malawi Under-21 national netball team is yet to start preparations for the 2021 Netball World Youth Cup set for Fiji from December 1-19.
With at least nine months before the global showpiece throws off, all the other contestants, including continental rivals South Africa and Uganda, have intensified their tune-ups.
The other finalists are Australia, Barbados, Cook Islands, England, Fiji, Jamaica, Malaysia, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Samoa, Scotland, Singapore, Sri Lanka, St Lucia, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago and Wales.
Malawi Under-21 national netball team is yet to identify, monitor and polish prospective players to don the black, red and green national colours at the prestigious competition that moulds emerging netballers into international stars.
During the 2009 edition in Cook Island, shooter Mwawi Kumwenda was spotted by Australian club Peninsular Waves to become the Malawi’s first netball export.
Netball Association of Malawi (NAM) general secretary Carol Bapu yesterday admitted that time is not on the Junior Queens’ side.
However, she said they are in a dilemma on how to start the tune-up following the continued inactivity of sports in the country due to Covid-19.
“We are determined to begin our preparations but, at the same time, we need to ensure that we follow the government’s Covid-19 guidelines because the lives of our athletes are very important,” Bapu said.
She said they are hopeful that sporting activities will resume soon so that they can roll out their plan of identifying and monitoring up-and-coming players.
“Alongside director of netball Mary Waya and NAM technical director Sam Kanyenda, we have devised a plan on how to identify and monitor the players. There will be regional camps before arranging some friendly matches,” the NAM GS said.
But other countries which were heavily affected by the pandemic, other countries have relaxed their restrictions on sports. For instance, South Africa is expected to host Uganda in Cape Town between March 24 and 31 in a Spar Challenge that will include their Under-21 side The Baby Proteas.
Netball South Africa (NSA) president Cecilia Molokwane was recently quoted by www.timeslive.co.za as saying that The Baby Proteas are expected to use the series to get some game time and work on combinations ahead of the U21 Netball World Youth Cup.
Other national teams such as Samoa and Cook Island have been conducting virtual trials for their young players and having matches with domestic clubs.
Junior Queens coach Christina Mkwanda-Nsinji said it will be proper for the local netball authority to fast-track the start of the preparations.
“We need to start our preparations as early as possible because young players are different from the senior players as they need ample time to cope with the standards,” she said.
“It is my expectation that we will have some mini tournaments in the regions to identify players that we can start working with before having some camp trainings to further sharpen their skills.”
The Malawi Under-21 national netball team automatically qualified for the global showpiece alongside South Africa and Uganda after Internationa Netball Federation (INF) decided to cancel last yera’s African Region qualifiers and use the current INF world rankings to determine contestants due to Covid-19 pandemic. Malawi is ranked sixth in the world while South Africa and Uganda are fifth and seventh, respectively.
The team last assembled for an international tournament in 2019 when they took silver at the African Union Sports Council (AUSC) Region Five Youth Games in Botswana following a 29-61 loss to South Africa in the final.
Former Malawi Queens’ captain Emmie Waya-Tchongwe said, with the current situation, it will be helpful for NAM to incorporate secondary schools and colleges in their search for talent ahead of the global showpiece.
“It seems we struggle with our preparations and we are always caught unawares when time for games arrives.
“Therefore, it is high time NAM stood up and worked. There is enough talent in colleges and secondary schools, where we can tap talent for the forthcoming games.
“Some players that are not overaged in elite clubs can as well be incorporated,” she said.