Harare provincial squad for the Zimbabwe National Youth Games was confident of retaining the title they won last year in Gwanda, as the games roar into action.
The 10th edition of youth games begin today with the official opening ceremony expected to kick off proceedings at Bindura University.
Since the inception of the games in 2003 in Bulawayo, Harare province have made the games their own, losing once in 2004 when Masvingo province dislodged them from the top.
However, since then Harare have dominated almost all the sporting disciplines.
During last year’s youth games held in Gwanda, Matabeleland South, the Harare scooped a massive 48 medals which comprised 18 gold, 15 silver and 15 bronze.
A visit to their training camp at Churchill Boys High last week saw the Harare athletes in the various sporting disciplines like girls’ football, girls’ volleyball, netball, boys and girls’ basketball, boys and girls’ handball, going through their paces under the watchful eyes of their coaches.
Andrew Jirira, the girls’ soccer coach, was happy with the level of preparations and said, being the defending champions, the girls were confident of winning the gold again in Bindura.
Jirira noted that the majority of the players have been active and match-fit as they are playing regularly for their clubs in the inaugural Marange Resources Women’s National League.
The girls’ team has been bolstered in camp by the presence of United Kingdom-based player Tabessa Chipeni, who is reading for a degree in Sports Science.
“We hope Chipeni’s presence in the squad will give wide options in terms of team selection.
“She has experience, given she plays both college football and turns out for Brighton Club. She is natural left-back, a position that always give us headache and that is plus for us,” said Jirira.
From the team that won gold in Gwanda last year, six players are still available for selection in this year’s edition while the bulk will be making their debuts at the national youth games.
Jirira will bank on the experience of Mighty Warriors defender Eunice Chibanda, strikers Tafadzwa Tsunguro, Lydia Kapunhure, Fransica Tsikwa,
Nomsa Biseck, goalkeeper Juliet Fungamwe, defensive midfielder Daisy Kaitano and Emma Mlilo.
“Before the games start, I want to work on the cohesion of the team from the defence to the midfield and movement with the ball when in attack,” noted Jirira.
Jirira was happy with the strikers, especially their conversion rate.
Strikers who have been handed the responsibility to deliver the goods are COPA Coca-Cola Girls Under-16 player of the tournament Greater Bande, Biseck, Tsunguro and Kapunhure.
Jirira believes that Masvingo, Bulawayo, Mashonaland Central and Midlands should give his side a good run for their money.
Alice Muzanenhamo, the girls’ handball coach, feels their preparations have gone according to plan and the team is starting to take shape.
Muzanenhamo has challenged her players to improve from last year’ performance where they finished fourth. She believes gold is within grasp.
In the build-up to the youth games, the girls’ handball team played a preparatory match with Girls High. Muzanenhamo was impressed with her
team’s performance as they won 11-9.
“We need to work with the players, especially on the communication by defenders and their concentration level. I believe they have the capabilities
of producing results at the games,” said Muzanenhamo.
The girls’ handball coach feels goalkeeper Noma Mudarikwa, Captain Lesley Chikadaya, Stacey Chidarikire and Tanaka Nyika will be the trump cards. Nyika was part of the Zimbabwe Under-16 squad that took part in an invitational tournament held in Sweden in April this year.
Muzanenhamo also brought in Samantha Kawanga and Nutty Mbirimi, to widen selection options.
As they seek to achieve their golden dream, Muzanenhamo reckoned that Matabeleland South and host province Mashonaland Central would be tough opponents.
Boys’ basketball coach Tawanda Chitsinde feels despite the crush programme they had to endure, their preparations are on course and his players are confident to retain the title they won last year.
Chitsinde said the players who participate in the Harare Basketball League are off-season and in the build-up to the youth games they have been concentrating on physical fitness.
The head coach is elated at the quality of players at his disposal ahead of the games. Chitsinde indicated that it’s a positive headache because the competition for starting places has been stiff.
“I have talent in the squad, the squad that is in camp is not an indication that this is Harare’s best. During our preparations, it was difficult to drop other players and this signifies how strong my team is,” said Chitsinde.
Chitsinde said before the youth games roar into life, he is working on team building, combinations and game plan. He feels Manicaland, Bulawayo and Mashonaland East are tough opponents.
Players like Ronald Chionyere, Dexter Ganga, Regis Muza, Warren Tegana, Captain Josiah Sachiti, Tapiwanashe Muzoza and Billy Melusi, carry the hopes of boys’ basketball squad.
Clement Kufeketa, the girls’ basketball coach, believes they have covered enough ground and their preparations have gone well. Kufeketa said although they began on a slow note, their momentum among players is encouraging and are ready to defend their title.
The girls’ basketball gaffer is impressed with the endurance of the players and has been responding to new drills at training. He feels the competition for first five is stiff and Kufeketa said such challenges are positive when selecting a team.
Kufeketa managed to retain eight players from those who played during last year’ s youth games in Gwanda.
Harare province girls’ basketball squad welcomes back to the fold star player Sharon Chamwarura.
Chamwarura was involved with the both the junior and senior women’s national teams during the season and the coach believes her experience at that level adds value to the team.
“From the squad that I have from last year’s youth games in Gwanda, there are new additions that I believe will further widen our selection options in all departments. These are Rumbidzai Marima and Tarisai Shonihwa,” said Kufeketa.
Kufeketa admitted that it’s not easy to retain the championship tag because all the teams produce their best performance against the defending champions. He wants to polish the defence and improve their communication.
The girls’ basketball coach challenged his players to approach this year’ youth games with a positive attitude and avoid complacency in all the matches.
Besides Chamwarura, other players who are set to bring the house down with their amazing skills include last year’s Most Valuable Player (MVP)
Melisa Majonga, Under-16 MVP Sthabile Ngandiwe, Stacey Wilscot and Under-17 star player Francisca Sekete.
James Masimba, the girls’ volleyball coach, is happy with their level of preparations and believes the squad is taking shape. He said there are no injury worries ahead of the youth games.
Masimba urged the players to improve on last year’s performance when they won silver after losing to rivals Masvingo province.
The girls’ volleyball coach feels gold medal this year is within reach judging by the quality of players at his disposal.
“We are taking the National Youth Games seriously as we are not taking anything for granted. Our preparations started in mid-July and we have been training during weekends up to now,” said Masimba.
The volleyball girls’ coach is using the final stretch of preparations to work on team building, game plan, co-ordination and combinations.
Masimba indicated that competition has been tough, as it’s proving difficult to come up with the starting team.
Players that can make the difference when the match gets tough include last year’s Defender of the Tournament Patricia Rukanda, attacker Tafadzwa Ndabanengi, captain Yvonne Gambarari and setter Nyasha Kamushinda.
Masimba reckoned that besides his key players who are expected to lead from the front, he will certainly give exciting youngsters Carren Zhangazha, Marsha Muchinerepi and Blessed Baribari a run.
The girls’ volleyball gaffer feels Masvingo, Bulawayo, Mashonaland East and hosts Mashonaland Central could prove to be tough opponents.