Will Nigeria ever play in netball’s World Cup?
Withdrawals rock continental fiesta
At a certain time in Nigeria’s history, Netball ranked at par with basketball, handball, athletics, volleyball and tennis. Among womenfolk, it was even more popular than football such that preparation for any competition was in itself a carnival.
Unfortunately, netball has disappeared from Nigeria’s sports calendar. The older citizens now only discuss it nostalgically in their period of introspection. But that is not the situation in mother African countries.
In fact, in the eastern and southern parts of the continent, netball still commands as much followership as the other ball games, and just a little behind football.
These countries take the Netball World Cup qualifiers as serious as they do to other major tournaments. South Africa will host the 2023 Netball World Cup.
The African Netball Cup, the equivalent football’s Nations Cup, is currently on going in South Africa, but there are concerns over the spate of withdrawals by the top teams.
According to Faith Kiai, who writes for Uganda’s New Vision, Uganda’s journey at the Africa Netball Cup was off to a very eventful start after their opening round opponents Zimbabwe failed to arrive for the match on time handing them the walkover.
The game, which was initially planned for Friday morning was rescheduled after group B opponents Tanzania pulled out in the last minute.
The Zimbabweans who were still looking for resources also left Harare very late so they could not make it to the match on time, handing the She Cranes the match.
She said the organisers have been thrown into a tailspin with the late withdrawals of Tanzania and the Namibians, who opted to go for a tournament in Singapore.
“With this development, the tournament format has now changed to a round-robin format with the hosts South Africa leading the way after their two wins on day one.
Uganda on Saturday finally played their first game against Zambia and will look towards picking a win today against Lesotho who has struggled a lot.
“Later in the afternoon, they will come up against the hot tournament favourites South Africa who they need to beat to keep their title defence chances alive.
“Lesotho annihilated on the opening day by South Africa who posted their highest score in a netball match with a 116-10 scoreline.
“This has set the tone for the competition and most teams are clamouring to live up to their performance.”
According to Kiai, the Netball Cup is a dress rehearsal for the 2023 Netball World Cup.
“Fans did not flock the event early on the opening day but they came in for the evening session which was well attended by mostly students and schools.
“Like most of the International Netball Federation events, there will be no prize money for the winners.”
And so, the African qualifiers of the Netball World Cup will begin later in the year without Nigeria, which prides itself as the ‘giant of Africa.’
Most of the top African countries have netball Leagues and grassroots competition from where they draw the players. In Nigeria, it is a forgotten sport, which a good number of the nation’s youths know nothing about.
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