By Loveness Nyathi
SPORT has always been lauded as one of the frontiers for bringing people together and a major catalyst in nation building.
This is what a local organisation, Save Matabeleland Coalition, decided to form the Matabeleland Football Confederacy and harness the power of football to augment its various programmes in the region.
After the success of the men’s football team following its participation at the Confederation of Independent Football Associations (CONIFA), the organisation saw it fit to come up with a ladies football team to bring together women and ensure they participate in Save Matabeleland’s development programmes.
The Confederacy’s president , Busani Sibindi said women are seen as an integral part of rebuilding the Matabeleland Community and hence the equal investment in the development of their team.
“The football project is an extension of the development programming of the Save Matabeleland Coalition.
The institution seeks to further the objectives of championing development through sport, Peace Building, conflict resolution, career grooming and international representation.
“The women's team aptly named Queen Lozikeyi Academy, after one of King Lobhengula's wives who also played the role of the Kings army commander in the absence of her husband, was founded in 2017 and was established in the year 2018 after a resounding and remarkable CONIFA World Football Cup in London 2018,” he said.
The team is opening up opportunities to young women in Matabeleland and offering them opportunities they could only have previously dreamed off."
Eighteen year old Zothile Mkhwananzi is hoping to keep herself occupied with football while seeking an opportunity to advance to her A Levels after attaining six subjects at O Levels in exams she sat for last November.
“Soccer is an alternative career path for me. I believe there are a lot of opportunities opened up by the game such as travelling, meeting new people and pursuing the game fulltime.
“My parents are struggling to pay for my A Level studies and I am hoping a football scholarship might arise along the way,” said the midfielder, who has played at district and provincial level and was part of the team that travelled to Johannesburg last year.
Sisa Ndebele, who is the youngest player in the team at 14 and is a form two pupil at Eveline High School, has gained valuable insight as spending time with the older girls has been enlightening.
“I started playing at home and people realised I was talented and I was part of the first players to be recruited for the Matabeleland side.
“Being the youngest has come with advantages as I have been learning a lot from the older girls, both in terms of football and life in general. As a midfielder, I am growing slowly and believe the best is yet to come from me,” she said, adding she will be considering a career in football.
Growing up with a father who played for Matabeleland’s biggest football team, Highlanders, Dinahrose Banda started playing the game early in her childhood and has won several accolades with the Bulawayo provincial team.
She has shown determination to stay in football despite drawbacks of finding herself being the only committed player at her previous team, Hearts of Oak.
As a striker, she scored 10 goals for Matabeleland when they played at the Annual Human Rights Cup in Bosmont, Johannesburg last year.
“My father Tanny Banda used to play for Highlanders and I think I took after him when I started playing football at the age of five.
“My aim is to play frequently so I get more game time and improve my game. I hope to do better for Matabeleland and play at a higher level,” she said
Sibindi said the Matabeleland teams compete and play in International CONIFA programs that happen annually and biennial.
“The Association managing the teams also hosts and holds tournaments such as the Annual Human Rights Cup an International tournament meant to celebrate and promote Human rights day globally. It was first held in Johannesburg in December 2018 to celebrate the United Nations 70th Anniversary of the International Declaration of Human Rights. Both Matabeleland Teams competed and lost in finals earning silver ware,” he said.
Sibindi said the football team was aptly named the Queen Lozikeyi as she was a respected leader in Matabeleland her name inspires hope and resonates with conquering challenges which is what the team is all about overcoming challenges that afflict our community. Hence for ladies they will need double the strength in becoming champions in sport due to the historical cultural constraints that have marginalized women in many areas.