Displaying a surgeon-like precision, Joyce Mvula stepped off the bench to calm Malawi Queens’ nerves in 68-43 beating of spirited Zimbabwe at crammed Sports Complex indoor court Monday evening.
The win marked a flying start for the four-day 2013 Africa Netball Championship at College of Medicine’s facility in Blantyre as the eight-member continental event threw off in earnest. Queens are the defending champions.
Queens date Zambia Wednesday morning in another pool A clash.
The score-line might be deceiving. Not until Mvula’s introduction alongside goal attacker Sindi Simtowe, centre Beatrice Kumwenda and improvised wing attacker Joanna Kachilika for Takondwa Lwazi, Grace Mhango, Jessica Mazengera and Towera Vinkhumbo respectively, did Malawi look comfortable.
Towering Zimbabwe’s goal shooter Pauline Jani had for the opening three quarters outplayed Vinkhumbo and goal defender Caroline Mtukule-Ngwira.
Malawi coach Griffin Saenda reacted in the last but one quarter by redeploying Lorraine Ngwira who started as goal shooter, to goal keeper; hence dealing with Jani.
Zimbabwe assistant coach Tapiwa Chilenga insisted that his charges played their lungs out against ‘a giant’.
Queens deputy coach Peace Chawinga-Kalua was equally happy with the proceedings.
“We were trying new combinations. Lorraine was playing for the first time in goal shooting, likewise Jessica Mazengera. There should be no doubt that we will defend the championship,” she said as fans danced and chanted.
“Tatopa ndi Ma Flames…bola atsikanawa. Flames yatinamiza kwanthawi yaitali [We are fed up with the underperforming Flames],” some fans were overhead shouting in the court’s upper balcony as the game progressed.
Guests for the championship also involving Uganda, Swaziland, Botswana, Namibia and Africa’s second ranked South Africa, included Sports Minister Enoch Chihana, Sports Council executive secretary George Jana, International Netball Federation envoy Sara Pickford and Africa Netball president Teboko Lebotse.
“Today, Africa Netball continues to make history and strengthen a commitment that we made in May 2010 in Pretoria, South Africa, when in one voice, 10 African countries committed to forming a new regional body, Africa Netball,” Lebotse said, challenging netballers to prove wrong netball detractors.