Woman footballer "Kwinji" aims for FIFA qualification

By Loveness Nyathi

GROWING up in the dusty streets of Njube, a suburb in Bulawayo that once had the reputation of being a criminal haven, Zimbabwe’s senior women football team coach Sithethelelwe “Kwinji 15” Sibanda never dreamt of one day making it to international corridors of soccer.

However, being handed an opportunity to be part of an elite Fifa football mentorship programme has seen Sibanda dreaming of spreading her wings to become an international instructor.

Fifa selected Sibanda (37) for the year long mentorship programme as they sought to empower women excelling in the coaching instructors field.

While many male coaches were still dreaming of racking up coaching badges, Kwinji, as she is fondly known, had already attained the highest qualification offered by Caf and because she excelled she was made a coaching instructor.

“I am enjoying being a local instructor but I want to continue working hard and eventually l want to be a CAF instructor and eventually to be a FIFA instructor. My other target is to also coach outside the country.

“The job comes with its own challenges as people have this mind set of undermining ladies , until they see u doing it especially those that have never seen you doing your work ,they only believe after seeing you in action,” said Sibanda.

She revealed that being a female coach and instructor has made her stronger, character wise, as she has had to deal with males that do not accept that a lady can be better than them especially in a male dominated profession such as football adding she has refused to let male chauvinism pull her down.

“It is great to be part of the FIFA mentorship course and I believe it will help me a lot in building my career, l will definitely utilise my mentor (Swedish coach, Pia Sundhage) to develop  myself  and  next  time l will  be  a  mentor  in  the  same  program.

“Getting  involved  in  international  coach  development programs  gives me  a lot of  opportunities  to  network  and l enjoy  travelling  and meeting  top people in football,” said Sibanda.

Kwinji made history when she became the first female coach to sit in Zimbabwe’s Premiership when she was appointed Tsholotsho FC assistant coach the year they played their first year in the top flight in 2015.

She downplayed the ground breaking move saying it was more of the experience she craved.

“To me it was not all about making history but the most important thing was getting that exposure to coach at that level and improve my CV , l will forever be grateful to (then Tsholotsho coach, Lizwe)Sweswe and Tsholotsho for giving me that chance as surely it enriched my  CV and opened some opportunities for me .

“It was great experience although society would want to discourage you by saying negative things like considering it socially unacceptable for a woman to be in that place,  but l told myself this is a rare God given talent and l will not let anyone pull me down instead l will go to the highest levels with this talent until they will say no more ,and that keeps me going  because l really enjoy  it  and  l  am  very  passionate about football,” added the former Mighty Warriors midfielder.

Sibanda began her forays into football during her high school years at Mzilikazi and Mandwandwe Schools. She later joined New Orleans FC where she shone as a player and made regular appearances for the Mighty Warriors.

After being given the chance to captain the team, she developed an interest in coaching as she would take charge in the absence of head coaches. While still playing football, she enrolled for coaching courses and by the time her career ended, she was already of Level 1, 2, 3 and 4 certificates and had a CAF C badge.  

She has also coached Inline and the Under 20 national teams.