By Anesu Chakanetsa
THE first ever Olympic Gold Medal for Zimbabwe was scooped in 1980 in the hockey discipline by women now known as the golden ladies.
Some 20 or so years later, Kirsty Coventry had a stellar swimming career during the Sydney 2000 Olympics, Athens 2004, Beijing 2008, London 2012 and Rio 2016 where, along the way, she scooped several accolades, including Gold Medals.
She is now the Minister responsible for Sport in Zimbabwe.
The first ever Zimbabwean football team to grace a major tournament was the Zimbabwe national senior women football team that participated in the 2016 Rio Olympics, although they did not get any medal.
And there is a whole lot more women talent in Zimbabwe that has done great in sport but the other gender continues to be rewarded better than the triumphant women.
This story is not meant to spark a war between the two genders in Zimbabwe but statistically and literally puts real facts on table.
It’s important to discuss the future, however.
Still trending in women football news is the Louis Rubiales and Jennifer Hermoso saga, where the former allegedly force-kissed the latter, inviting an uproar in football circles.
Spain’s triumph in the Women’s 2023 World Cup co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand in July to August was overshadowed by this saga, which opened a can of worms in Spanish football, in financial and sexual terms.
Rubiales insisted that he kissed the Spanish striker Hermoso because he was elated with the outcome of the final, where Spain beat England by 1-0.
But Hermoso told her friend that she did not like the kiss and the friend took the conversation to the media.
After a month of concerted pressure, the beleaguered Rubiales finally resigned.
The Spanish government was vociferous with the issue until Rubiales resigned.
(It was government interference and FIFA did not ban them).
Sexual and financial abuse of women in sport is prevalent everywhere in the World.
The re-appointment of Shadreck Mlauzi to coach the Mighty Warriors is a welcome development despite the girl child still being undermined in the game.
And the name Shadreck Mlauzi carries with it record breaking plaudits by becoming the first coach to take a Zimbabwean football team to a major international event, the Olympics.
So much was the hospitality by Brazilian fans during the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics who cheered Zimbabwe all the way despite being shellacked by World powerhouses Australia, Germany and Canada.
They were heroines abroad but when they came back home, according to a source that spoke to The Patriot, the girls were given US$5 transport allowances for those who resided in Harare and US$15 for those who came from Bulawayo and other places.
Such are the painful stories that come to mind when there is talk of women football in Zimbabwe and abroad.
Locally though, development of women’s sport is lagging behind compared to how other African countries are doing.
There is a plethora of talent in Zimbabwe from grassroots but the oomph in the girls participating in sport is being thwarted.
In most Zimbabwean schools, netball is regarded as the girls’ game while football is the boys’ game. A girl who takes up netball at primary school is likely to drop it when she gets to high school and tertiary school because of lack of coverage and support for the girl-child.
This is also the same with boys versus girls in any other sport where many girls drop sports due to various reasons.
Chief among them is the contribution of parents and guardians in not allowing girls to take part in sport, with the view that girls should be doing house chores and focusing on academic work.
The other reason is that parents want to ‘protect’ the girl child fearing that since sport is dominated by men, girls are vulnerable to abuse.
There are a lot of other Louis Rubiales in Zimbabwe (which was one of the reasons the Sports Recreation Committee force stopped the erstwhile ZIFA board from running soccer affairs leading to Zimbabwe’s ban).
Therefore, a passionate sport developer or stable is likely to draw fewer girls than boys at grassroots level.
But those who get the fortune to play sport encounter a lot of vicissitudes that force them to resign.
Former Black Rhinos Women’s basketball team playmaker and slasher Sharon Vhutuza is one of the women who left the game due to financial exploitation.
“ For the two years I played basketball I really did not make a lot of money. We just went to play for fun I guess,” she said.
“The only thing that I benefitted from playing basketball is the opportunity to meet people who connected me to the industrial company I’m working for now. Because I needed to put food on the table for my family, I quit basketball.”
“Most clubs only give snickers and transport money to players so that they come to training.”
Former Glen View Development Cricket Club cricketer, Nyasha Marumahoko, says she wanted to be in the Zimbabwe’s Under 19 national team but her club cricket experience was agonizing.
“My family who really supported me because I was an athlete had to fork out a lot of money for me so that I could play developmental cricket but it got tough for them and I ended up looking for a job and stopped playing cricket,” said Marumahoko.
“I really wanted to be one of those great women in Zimbabwe sport but I gave up because of financial issues.”
Elsewhere, women’s sport, besides ensuring healthy lives, is becoming more competitive and financially rewarding.
Morocco became the first Arab country to qualify for the women’s World Cup, and became the first one also to qualify to the Round of 16 during the Australia New Zealand World Cup.
There are a lot of talented Zimbabwean girls in need of development but are not getting any support — could put Zimbabwe on the international sporting map.