Women's soccer stagnant and lacking support in Zimbabwe

By Lovemore Dube

Women’s soccer is dying a slow death owing to lack of support from the community, business sector or football family, says Trust Kwembeya, founder of Inline Academy, a women’s football club in Bulawayo.

“For almost 15 years I toiled with the girls sacrificing a lot but never really got the right support. I am disappointed that the work we did in the last 20 years should have seen us move forward but where we are today it’s like women’s football has taken 10 steps back. We are stagnant and there does not seem to be a clue on the way forward being provided by the national body,” said the man who sacrificed so much of his family time and resources for the Girl Child.

Kwembeya set up his Inline Academy in 2001 and has  put the city and country on the world map albeit with little or nothing to show for it. Inline Academy has produced dozens of players who have appeared for the Zimbabwe women’s national soccer team, however Kwembeya believes he could have done better with his vision if he had received enough support.

“Almost a dozen of my players have represented the country. They have been to Cosafa and the Olympics, but I believe they could have done better and showcased their talents on the world stage regularly.

“There is no support and back up for women’s soccer from the community, business sector and football family. Whatever successes are celebrated it boils down to individuals and their respective clubs putting a lot of sacrifice for things to happen.

Kwembeya has been out of the game for four years, fed up with bickering which has become synonymous with the once beautiful game in Zimbabwe.

Kwembeya despite bemoaning the lack of development on the national game, will always be remembered for the role he played in uplifting women’s football and giving kids in Bulawayo a chance to play and grow.

Some have found jobs as a result of playing football, with some growing up into white dress weddings, having families of their own, a contribution he is proud of.

“Some of our players have been employed by the Prisons Department, we have had some tying the knot, we have tried to develop a whole person out of our players emphasizing on discipline, family and society values,” he adds.

Two coaches from the club, Shadreck Mlauzi who was with the Mighty Warriors at the Brazil Olympics in 2016, Sithethelelwe Sibanda who is the current women’s senior national team gaffer and now a coaching instructor, were both in charge of the team at some stage.

“To have been a platform to develop iconic figures like the two is something we celebrate as a club and to have Sithethelelwe becoming a CAF coaching instructor as a female is testimony of the potential lying hidden in our girls awaiting exploitation,” said Kwembeya.

He believes the Girl Child has not been accorded a fair chance to exhibit her talent in all sports in the country because of stereotyping by the community.

Rudo Neshamba, Samkelisiwe Zulu, Nobuhle Majika, Rejoice Kampfumvuti, Sibongonkosi Leya, Sithembile Nyoni and Talent Mazetese are some of the players who have represented the country in various international tournaments including Southern Africa (Cosafa), Africa Cup of Nations and Olympic finals.