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By Jess Anderson
They were the team that gatecrashed the World Cup.
On the court they impressed crowds with their flair, and off it them charmed with their charm – memorably dance their way on to the BBC’s television policy.
Zimbabwe’s Stone went – but at one point it wasn’t sure they would be able to compete in Liverpool. They lacked the financial funds they desperately needed to create the trip and trained without equipment or facilities.
But compete they did – ending eighth, winning an unprecedented three matches.
Having established themselves in the world platform, what will the future hold for netball in Zimbabwe?
A few of Zimbabwe’s players had not even played on a appropriate netball court, before the World Cup began.
Goal shooter Joice Takaidza, who now lives in Australia, says the centers inside her homeland are”the worst to train on”.
“At college we play sand and once you finish enjoying with the dust will be on your throat,” she informs BBC World Service’s Sportshour programme.
“In the Premier League we play on concrete reasons, which are extremely hard and very dangerous too because they damage your knees.”
Funding is the main problem – as is the case in many sports that are Zimbabwean.
As government minister Kirsty Coventry, an Olympic swimming gold medallist in 2004 and 2008, clarifies:”Two months prior to the championship, the Zimbabwe Netball Association had not raised the money they had desired to.
“We supplied a great deal of support for them to be there.”
Other financing appeals increased only #250 – a dip in the ocean for the likes of England and Australia – however, it produced a substantial gap to Zimbabwe.
Nevertheless the issues did not stop there.
After the team arrived in the UK, head trainer Lloyd Makunde had to head into Liverpool and invest 30 of his money on equipment including balls and cones.
“We faced many challenges,” states Makunde.
“We saw teams such as Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica if they had been warming up, and we really didn’t have the equipment when we were doing the practice.”
Victories over established countries such as Northern Ireland, Barbados and Sri Lanka in the World Cup showed the possibility for further victory in Zimbabwe.
But where will come from?
England goalkeeper Geva Mentor is one of those trying to help.
Since visiting the disparity between groups Mentor has assembled gear and kit to send to less based netball states.
“The talent is there,” she says. “It is only hoping to tap into that and make sure they understand what they have got and they’ve obtained the assistance around them for each of these girls to have the ability to flourish.
“Some of the hardest pieces is actually finding folks on the floor to distribute the kit and get it out to the rural communities where individuals actually need it”
Coventry – the minister for youth, game recreation and arts – acknowledges the Zimbabwean government has to place”different structures” in place in game, but says that there are bigger priorities within the country.
“We are going through a difficult time and you will find items within the country, within the economy, like medicines for individuals, like schooling for people… and game is not up in this area at right now.
“So for me to sit here and we would love to construct netball courts and soccer fields and swimming… it’s totally unrealistic and I would be letting down thousands and hundreds of athletes down.”
Coventry is currently looking to collaborate with partnerships and sport institutions to drive an improvement in facilities.
“I feel that the athletes are demonstrating that we’ve got enormous talent and that’s not going away,” she says.
“So it is all up to us to set up place the various structures which will allow for sports to be professional.”