First published in the Daily Maverick 168 weekly newspaper.
With the 2023 Netball World Cup fast approaching, Sports Minister Nathi Mthethwa announced the members of an organising committee that he hopes will ensure that the country stages another memorable global event.
The under-pressure Mthethwa, who is in the firing line for his handling of Covid-19 compensation for the creative sector and is also the chief referee in a Cricket South Africa dispute, seemed pleased to be able to announce positive developments.
Mthethwa said the committee would be chaired by Patience Shikwambana, the chief operating officer of the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc). The committee is not dissimilar to the Local Organising Committee (LOC) that oversaw the successful staging of the 2010 Fifa World Cup.
Shikwambana will be joined on the committee by Netball SA president Cecilia Molokwane; CEO of Netball SA Blanche de la Guerre; Department of Sport, Arts and Culture Deputy Director-General Sumayya Khan; City of Cape Town councillor JP Smith; and chief director of the Western Cape’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport, Lyndon Bouah.
With the nation having successfully hosted international events such as the Rugby World Cup in 1995, the Cricket World Cup in 2003 and the Fifa World Cup in 2010, Mthethwa said it was imperative to maintain the high standard set in the past.
“South Africa’s track record in hosting premier global sporting events is exceptional and it is one we can all be proud of. In continuing in this fashion, we’re aiming to make this one of the most impactful, memorable and inspirational tournaments in Netball World Cup history,” he said.
Mthethwa said a reason the government had approved Netball SA’s proposal to host the event was that it had the potential to inspire young women and empower them.
“It was about taking advantage of this once-in-a-generation opportunity to inspire women and girls through the hosting of one of the largest single-sport, women-only events,” said Mthethwa.
Shikwambana said she and her teammates on the committee were excited about making a mark: “As a collective, we must be like a netball team – take up our positions and dedicate ourselves to making this event a magnificent and the best-ever World Cup.
“We must show the zeal our girls displayed during the last World Cup in Liverpool [England]. As a chair and on behalf of the board, we accept our responsibilities … We will continue engaging with all stakeholders to ensure we don’t lose sight of the task at hand.”
South Africa successfully outbid New Zealand for the event.
Speaking in 2019, Molly Rhone, the former president of the International Netball Federation (INF), said the organisation was looking forward to having the World Cup come to Africa.
“It is an exciting time for netball right now. Our sport is growing in popularity at an unprecedented rate throughout the world,” Rhone said.
“There is increasing competitiveness between the top nations. Three teams from Africa feature in the top 10 of the world rankings. We look forward to working with the organising committee to bring INF’s most important event to South Africa in 2023.”
No pro league
What will be a slight setback, though, is that by the time the World Cup arrives, South Africa is unlikely to have a fully fledged national professional league, something which would significantly improve its chances of winning the tournament.
Khan acknowledged that it was unlikely that a professional league would be set up before 2023, but said that the global event would probably fast-track its creation.
“We have to be honest that we will not have a professional league by then,” said Khan. “But I think we will be a step closer given the fact that many processes have already taken place over the past seven years in establishing a Premier League that will eventually take us towards a professional league.”
On the court, the Proteas are going about their preparations steadily. Recently they bulldozed past their opponents in the Spar Challenge tri-series, which included Uganda and neighbouring Namibia.
On the way to clinching the series a week ago, the Proteas won every match they played against their opponents, with South African coach Dorette Badenhorst using the series to test combinations and also increase the pool of players she will select from in 2023.
“It was valuable to see the depth of talent in the next tier of players. Some of them will play at the World Cup [in 2023] and it is good to see how much talent we have,” Badenhorst said after the series victory. DM168
This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper which is available for free to Pick n Pay Smart Shoppers at these Pick n Pay stores.
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