ZIMBABWE'S senior women's softball team were expected to finally leave for South Africa last night for the WBSC Africa Division World championships qualifiers starting tomorrow in Pretoria.
The country's participation at the qualifying event was under threat due to financial challenges. But some light finally shone through the dark cloud hanging above their camp yesterday with Zimbabwe Softball Association national teams' manager Kudzionera Madhodha confirming that they will now be sending a team after parents and a few well-wishers chipped in.
They have, however, been forced to trim down their delegation by dropping more players.
The championships, initially set to feature 12 countries will now see seven countries - South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania - taking part.
The event will run until January 15.
Coach Eldon Mudzingwa leads a 15-member squad to the qualifiers including the South Africa-based trio of Nodumo Khoza, Anokuthula Sibanda and Moleen Kalulu instead of 18 players.
Mudzingwa said despite the challenges, the fact that they would be competing after a nine-year absence from international events is a motivation for the side.
"Our last time to participate (in a major international event) was in 2009, so it's nine years now.
"It's going to be a very competitive event, but it won't be a surprise if we qualify because the players are raring to go, they are eager to impress. They just really want to play, that on its own it's a great motivation.
"So they are really eager to go and make a name for themselves and the country," said Mudzingwa.
He will be assisted by South Africa-based coach Americo Juma.
The qualifier will see the top two teams at the end of the competition advancing to the World Championships to be held later this year in Japan.
However, Mudzingwa said they are not only looking at qualification for the global event, but also the future of the team thus they are taking a relatively young side to South Africa.
"So we are carrying a relatively young team with players around 18-19 years. So it's not only about what we want to achieve now, but also the future.
"On the technical side we can safely say we had (good) preparations although we had minimum time of preparations. But they have gone according to plan, the three days we had were very fruitful, we were getting some positives from the players," said Mudzingwa.
Their first game is scheduled for tomorrow morning.
Madhodha acknowledged the softball family, including the players' parents, for coming together to ensure the team made the trip Down South.
"We have been relying on parents and individuals within the national association have been looking around, including some of the coaches who were supposed to travel with the team and they are giving the little they have.
"When these players know they are playing for the national team, they will be hoping for the best . . .But they understand the situation on the ground," said Madhodha.
Tadiwa Matsveru, Lisa Kufeketa, Sfiso Siziba, Proper Mpofu (vice-captain), Makanaka Zangaroti, Sharmaine Dube, Rangarirai Chidiya (captain), Tracy Zongoro, Cecilia Milomwe, Patricia Mazaika, Tendai Zindima, Emily Kalima, Nodumo Khoza, Anokuthula Sibanda, Moleen Kalulu.