The Sunday Mail
AT a time when the world is celebrating Women’s Month, Zimbabwe’s Under-21 hockey side showed the lofty heights female sportspersons can scale when they punched their ticket to the FIH Junior World Cup last week. Zimbabwe’s men and women’s teams were in Ismailia, Egypt, for the Junior Africa Cup, which served as Junior World Cup qualifiers. As has often happened with the country’s sports teams, it was the women’s side who flew the country’s flag high, as the 7-0 win over Kenya in their penultimate assignment in Egypt sealed their qualification.
They finished as runner-up, behind continental giants South Africa, who are incidentally the only team they failed to beat at the championships in their two encounters.
The World Cup is scheduled for Santiago, Chile, from December 6 to 17.
Zimbabwe’s exploits left their coach, Brad Heuer, an impressed man.
“We are super happy to have qualified for the Junior World Cup. Obviously, we had a tough loss again on Thursday against South Africa in the final. “The girls played the hardest; I can’t blame them at all. I am really proud of them; they gave it their all, which is all we could ask for. “They fought with everything they had and defended really well,” he said.
“Unfortunately, the pressure was too much for the girls during their match, though they managed to restrict South Africa to just a single goal. “So, we are obviously disappointed to have come second, but we are really happy with all the positives that have come out of this trip and obviously qualifying for the World Cup.” The women’s team got off to a slow start, after losing 3-0 to South Africa, but soon got back into the groove when they thumped Egypt 4-0 and secured a place in the final with a 7-0 hammering of Kenya.
Although both South Africa and Zimbabwe had already qualified by virtue of reaching the final, it was the former who walked away with gold through a 1-0 win.
This is the fourth time Zimbabwe’s women have qualified for the Junior World Cup after their debut in 2005. They later qualified in 2016 and 2021. The 2021 tournament was, however, moved to April 2022 due to Covid-19. Conversely, the men’s team failed to win a single game at the just-ended Junior Africa Cup. They started the tournament by losing in their first two opening games 6-0 to Egypt and 2-1 to Kenya.