Ellina Mhlanga, Harare Bureau
ZIMBABWE’S senior netball team preparations for the Vitality Netball World Cup yesterday got a major boost when Econet Wireless and Cassava Smartech presented them with a sponsorship package totalling $422 500 at a local hotel in Harare.
It has not been an easy road for the Gems, who have had to do with limited resources and with a huge assignment ahead of them. The sponsorship will go a long way in complementing their efforts.
Econet and Cassava Smartech presented cheques of $222 500 and $200 000 (both in local currency) respectively.
The two brands — Econet Wireless and Cassava Smartech — will be the Gems’ official title and kit sponsors in Liverpool.
Speaking at the handover ceremony yesterday, Econet Wireless chief operating officer, Fayaz King, said the sponsorship was a response to the plea made by the team through a video that circulated on social media over a month ago.
In the video, the Gems highlighted the challenges they were facing and appealed for support to make their participation at the Netball World Cup in Liverpool next month a reality.
“It’s at a stage when we saw videos circulating on social media of the Gems explaining their plight and explaining their difficulties; and as part of the group, we reached deep into our hearts, into our pockets and said this can’t happen, not on our watch, not when we are here.
“The Gems are ranked 13th in the world, I think it’s probably one of the highest rankings that we have of any sport as of now.
“I also believe that on behalf of the Econet Group, our contribution that we are making today from Econet Wireless, from Vaya and also from Higherlife by putting together resources will help in making your stay and your trip and your journey a lot more comfortable,” said King.
Zimbabwe were drawn in Group A together with Sri Lanka, world number one side Australia and Northern Ireland for their maiden appearance at the 16-team tournament.
King had a message of encouragement to the girls as they fine-tuned for the global showpiece.
“Champions do extra, I believe that the Gems are champions and I believe they will do extra and whatever extra support that can be given to them we will ensure and do our best that we give them. I also believe that by simply making it to the championships that’s what makes them champions.
“You have come far but that’s what champions do, and you will go further because you are champions. So on behalf of the Group we will be watching very closely and we will render whatever support that we can,” said King.
Zimbabwe Netball Association president Leticia Chipandu said they are grateful to Econet for their contribution.
“I want to say to Econet plus all the groups that have joined hands in supporting the Gems that you have got a very big heart. A lot of people saw the video, a lot of people heard about the Gems but they were not moved at all.
“In life we want to achieve goals and you are making our goals achievable, thank you very much Econet,” Chipandu said.
Chipandu said the team’s participation at the Netball World Cup should be a life-changing event and at least bring tangible benefits for the players.
Gems captain Perpetua Siyachitema also expressed their gratitude for the timely boost.
“I would like to say thank you from the bottom of our hearts to Econet Wireless for partnering with us. The girls are fired up and ready to conquer in Liverpool. With Econet now on board we know we will never walk alone.
“Econet inspired to change your world and we are inspired to change millions of Zimbabwean girls’ lives through netball,” said Siyachitema.
The function was also attended by Econet and Cassava Smartech executives as well as Sports Commission and the Gems’ fundraising committee representatives.