By Jeff Kapembwa
Lusaka - Uganda’s senior national netball team, the She Cranes, lived up to their billing after they emerged victorious and retaining their supremacy in the seven-nation round-robin championship hosted by the Netball Association of Zambia in Lusaka from August 13-18.
Uganda lifted the African Women’s Netball Championship after sweeping aside other contenders, to qualify for the Netball World Cup scheduled for Liverpool, England, in July 2019.
The She Cranes, currently ranked 7th in the world by the International Netball Federation (INF), came into the tournament with verve, literary sweeping all opponents aside from the first round to the finals and lifted the trophy in the tournament.
Uganda beat host Zambia 64-56; Kenya 61-42; Malawi 46-51; Botswana 66-35 and Zimbabwe 66-51 to win the tournament for the second time by 12 points. Malawi, Zimbabwe and Zambia all finished the tournament on eight points.
Zimbabwe that finished third also qualified for the Netball World Cup 2019. Though they came second, Malawi have qualified for the world championship together with South Africa due to their superior global ranking on the INF at 6th and 5th, respectively.
The win ensured that the She Cranes go into next year’s World cup in Liverpool-England as African champions Uganda Cranes will be featuring at the global showpiece for the third time, having appeared in the 1978 and 2015 edition.
Uganda will be featuring at the World Cup for the third time after taking part in 1978 and 2915 events. They finished 8th at the 2015 Netball World Cup held in Sydney. The 15th Netball World Cup will be hosted at the Echo Arena from July 12-21 in Liverpool.
She Cranes trainer, Vincent Kiwanuka, was elated with the team’s performance with a pledge to do better and ensure the country represents Africa at the Liverpool event, dubbed the highly contest by virtue of the European, Asian and other teams outside Africa that have been participating the tournament for a long time.
“We deserved to win because we prepared adequately and from the onset, we knew our chances were bright, although we started slightly shaky,” he said in a post-match interview.
The round-robin tournament drew Botswana, South Africa, Lesotho, Malawi, Kenya, Namibia, Uganda, Swaziland, Zimbabwe and hosts, Zambia.
The top five teams on the INF ranking - Australia, England, New Zealand, Jamaica and South Africa make automatic qualifies.
Other remaining 10 teams qualify through regional qualification tournaments, with two teams selected from each of the five international netball regions - Africa, Americas, Asia, Europe and Oceania.
A netball world championship is a quadrennial event coordinated by INF since 1963. Since its inception, the competition has been dominated primarily by the Australian national netball team (the Diamonds) and the New Zealand national netball team (the Silver Ferns) – Trinidad and Tobago is the only other team to have won a title.
The most recent tournament was the 2015 Netball World Cup in Sydney (Australia) and was won by Australia. In 1960, representatives from Australia, England, New Zealand, South Africa and the West Indies met to discuss standardising the rules of the sport.
The first World Netball Championship was held in 1963 then hosted by England. Since then there have been 13 more tournaments. Sixteen teams are expected to vie for honours at the Liverpool netball showpiece.