HARARE – Perpetua Siyachitema has laboured in the rigours of a mine, toiled as a train wagon attendant and was willing to become a police officer all in a bid to keep her netball dream alive.
In her 17-year career, she has played for at least nine clubs and has helped the national team to numerous accolades, hoping to one day enjoy the fruits of her talent.
Yet still, she struggles to count any material wealth attained from her sojourns.
Now 33, and knocking on the door of retirement, Siyachitema, who has been with the national team for the last nine years recalls a time Zimbabwe donned a Harare province tracksuit to a tournament in South Africa.
“It was that bad,” she says, somehow finding humour in the tragedy.
“There is a time we were travelling to tournaments and getting no allowances, nothing. It was really tough,” she recalls.
The Zimbabwe netball team has, however, always somehow found a way to soar above their adversities and winning hearts with their performances.
Nowhere near the top 50 netball teams in the world less than two year ago, the side is currently the 17th best team on the globe, with signs that their star is still shining.
And if anyone had any doubt of their capability, they underlined their growing status as African netball powerhouses when they emerged victorious at the invitational Hong Kong tournament.
It was a dry run for the African Netball Championships coming up later in the year, a tournament they will enter as defending champions.
In Hong Kong, Zimbabwe won all their matches against the hosts and Malaysia to come out tops at the end of the four-day event.
For their efforts, the Sports minister Makhosini Hlongwane held a dinner for the Ledwin Dondo-coached side upon their return on Tuesday night.
It was, however, not all smooth sailing as the team endured a torrid time in finding accommodation.
“This is the first time this has happened to netball,” Zimbabwe Netball Association president Leticia Chipandu said at the dinner.
“When we won gold (at the African Championships) we just came back just the way we walked out. But as women we want to be noticed.”
Chipandu narrated how Hong Kong had extended elaborate hospitality to the Zimbabwe national team, going as far as giving the team money for their upkeep in that country.
“We could not finish all the money we were given, we are not used to it,” Chipandu said, igniting laughter among the small crowd that attendant the dinner.
“We left behind about $5 000 of that money. That was a sign of responsibility and accountability. We are not a desperate nation and we have our pride,” Chipandu emphasised.
Hong Kong Netball Association president Hancock highlighted Zimbabwe’s growing profile insisting that “having Zimbabwe at this tournament has not only raised the profile of netball in Hong Kong, but it has more importantly shown that Hong Kong are internationally competitive.”
Siyachitema believes the tournament gave them an insight as to what they need to work on ahead of the African Championships in June, where Zimbabwe will be looking to defend their title.
While their arrival was lavishly greeted by the Sports ministry who also gave each player $500 in allowances, the team’s travel to Hong Kong was facilitated by the benevolence of a well-wisher who paid for the team’s air fares.
Although the team’s sponsorship challenges are well-documented, Siyachitema and her teammates will continue to soldier on as they aspire to put Zimbabwe on the world map.