Harare – Six-years ago Sithethelelwe “Kwinji 15” Sibanda broke footballing barriers in Zimbabwe when she became the first female assistant coach at a professional men’s soccer side, Tsholotsho FC.
Six years later, she returns to the dugout as assistant coach of local Division One side Trukumb FC. At the same time, she doubles up with the even heavier responsibility of coaching the Zimbabwe national women’s team, the Mighty Warriors.
“It’s always a great feeling to get a new challenge, l enjoy coaching, be it males or females. l am comfortable coaching both sexes and l am looking forward to giving my best for the team,” Sibanda told The Southern Times Sport.
The 36-year-old was roped into coaching men’s football by Lizwe Sweswe, the former gaffer of Zimbabwe Premier League champions FC Platinum.
“My first encounter with men’s football was amazing, l had a very supportive head coach who brought me and gave me opportunities to showcase what l had in me in coaching,” said Sibanda.
It is hard enough for girls and women to get into football as a career in Zimbabwe, and so much harder to coach men.
“There is a stigma attached to women footballers. At times people will look down at you because you are female, at times they will use bad language and call you names but just develop a thick skin and don’t mind them.
“l have grown in football and l don’t get intimidated easily, l developed a thick skin and a strong character. I have no regrets about choosing to be in football because it is a God-given talent. I enjoy football; I live football,” said the former Mighty Warriors midfielder.
A holder of several coaching badges – including the CAF A license, German A coaching certificate, FIFA Mentorship and CAF instructorship (ongoing) – Sibanda remains grateful to Sweswe.
“Sweswe is a coach and brother who believes in my abilities and I am grateful for the opportunities he has given me as a coach. l want to see women’s football developing but as a coach sometimes men’s football brings better job opportunities as it is better sponsored than the women side.”
Sweswe describes Sibanda as one of the best female coaches in Africa.“Kwinji 15 has football brains, and (has some of the best understanding) in Africa of the game of football. She is very knowledgeable and that alone is a passport for her to be respected by male players,” said Sweswe.