Harare – When Trish Kandemiri walked into the Machinery Exchange Rugby Stadium a fortnight ago as Zimbabwe Lady Sables took on Zambia in a friendly, she pinched herself to check if she was not dreaming.
Tears welled up in her eyes as she looked to her friends and teammates, Catherine Muranganwa and Velme Nyarumwe, who were also struggling to accept the reality that they were now national team players on international duty.
The trio hail from Honde Valley, a rural community situated about 100km from the small city of Mutare in Eastern Zimbabwe.
Growing up in a community where forced marriages, teenage pregnancies and girls dropping out of school are almost ordinary occurrences due to religious and economic issues, rugby was more than a sport for the three.
Since the sport was introduced at Sahumani Secondary School in 2017, rugby has been a lifesaver for Kamdemiri, Muranganwa and Nyarumwe.
It gave them a reason to get up every day and to want to excel, and it kept them in school.
Another boost came in the form of seed house Agriseeds, which sponsored their education after the company got wind of their rugby talent.
“Where we come from, there are a lot of apostolic sects, and the levels of poverty drive many to stop believing in sending girls to school or empowering them. Girls are victims of forced marriages, teenage pregnancies and dropping out of school,” 18-year-old Kandemiri tells The Southern Times Sport.
Murangwana chips in: “When rugby was introduced at our school I took it up and, to be honest, I think had not been of rugby I would not have finished secondary school. I think without rugby I would two or three children by now! My two older sisters were married before they turned 18. I also have to thank Agriseeds for the scholarship.”
With Muranganwa having already featured for Zimbabwe’s ladies’ rugby junior teams, Kandemiri revealed to the Southern Times Sport the almost surreal experience of donning the green and white of the national team.
“Considering where I come from I never dreamt that I would represent Zimbabwe at a national team level nor did I ever think that rugby would take me places.
“I could believe it when I saw my name on the team sheet to face Zambia. I remember pinching myself as we sang the national anthem, I couldn’t believe everything that was happening and I think for ten minutes I thought I was dreaming. It was an amazing feeling to be donning the national team jersey,” says the Lady Sables lock.
The trio hopes that their story of defying odds will inspire other girls to write break through barriers and achieve what may appear impossible.