Junior Queens coach Christina Mkwanda-Nsinji and Netball Association of Malawi (NAM) have described the cancellation of the 2021 Netball World Youth Cup as a stumbling block to talent exposure and Senior Queens’ transition process.
The International Netball Federation (INF) yesterday announced that the Under-21 event will no longer take place in June 2021, due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The world netball governing body said it will consult with the netball associations—whose teams qualified for the event—regarding the options for rescheduling, including dates towards the end of 2021 and early 2022.
The Junior Queens got automatic qualification for the global showpiece for being among the top-three ranked teams in Africa after the INF cancelled the continent’s qualifiers due to the pandemic and decided to select qualified teams based on the current rankings.
Prior to this qualification, Malawi had not made the grade at the world youth contest since 2009 in Cooks Island, where shooter Mwawi Kumwenda was spotted by Australian club Peninsular Waves to become the country’s first netball export.
Malawi failed to qualify for the previous edition which Botswana hosted in 2017 after settling for an unimpressive fifth position during Africa Region qualifiers that saw them winning only two of their six games. Then, South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe made it to the 20-team finals as the continent’s representatives along with the hosts.
Reacting to the news, Mkwanda-Nsinji said: “This is a big blow not only to the junior team—as regards to talent exposure on the global stage—but also to the senior Queens’ transition process. Nevertheless, we cross our fingers that the event will be rescheduled,”
Queens’ legend and former captain Emmie Waya-Chongwe said cancellation of the tournament will affect the Junior Queens’ selection process because some players that were earmarked for the event will be over-aged by the time the competition is rescheduled.
She said: “The other thing is that currently, netballers are idle and might get involved in promiscuity as netball inactivity continues. It will be a big challenge for the technical panel to start afresh with the talent identification process.”
NAM general secretary Carol Bapu said they were banking on the global competition to come up with the reserve side for the senior national team.
“And the world tournament could have provided the up-and-coming players an ideal platform for a exposure. So, it is a big blow,” she said
Twenty teams, including Malawi, qualified for the 2021 Netball World Youth Cup. The others are South Africa, Uganda, Australia, England, New Zealand, Jamaica, Barbados, Cook Islands, Fiji, Malaysia, Northern Ireland, Samoa, Scotland, Singapore, Sri Lanka, St. Lucia, Tonga,Trinidad and Tobago and Wales.