The Sunday News
Raymond Jaravaza, Sunday Life Correspondent
NOTHING beats the feeling of representing one’s country in a major tournament, and nothing less is expected when three boys and three girls walk into the tennis courts of the Bulawayo Country Club carrying the dreams and hopes of the nation on their young shoulders.
For the first time in as many months, the City of Kings and Queens will host a regional tennis tournament post the recently reviewed lockdown measures that allowed sports codes to resume activities.
Four countries are set to converge on the city for a week-long regional Confederation of African Tennis (CAT) Under-12 tournament starting tomorrow at the Bulawayo Country Club. It ends on 17 October.
Zimbabwe will welcome Botswana, Namibia and Malawi with each country expected to field three boys and the same number of girls for the tourney.
And all eyes will be on Zimbabwe’s six young players aged below 12 years as they walk into the courts to make their coaches, parents and the nation at large proud. It’s a feeling Tennis Zimbabwe (TZ) administrator Clifford Nhokwara is certain will last in the youngsters’ memories for years to come.
“Imagine the positive impact that a chance to represent one’s country has on a child who is less than 12 years old. It’s a lifetime opportunity that these kids will cherish for the rest of their lives and we (Tennis Zimbabwe) wish them the best of luck. We encourage them to enjoy themselves and do their best no matter the outcome of the matches,” Nhokwara told Sunday Life Sport.
Bulawayo last held such a tournament for the Under-12s back in 2019 before the world was ravaged by the Covid-19 pandemic that put a halt to life as we knew it, a ban on sports activities and travel in general as authorities put measures in place to curb the spread of the virus.
“The last time Bulawayo hosted such a tournament, one of our boys progressed to the continental stage of the competition in Tunisia.
It was a great feeling, which we hope the six players will try to emulate. These players are already role models in their own right, they are showing the younger crop of tennis players that representing your country is a dream that is possible to achieve,” said Nhokwara.
The top two countries will progress to the continental Confederation of African Tennis tournament scheduled for next year in a host country yet to be named. The African continent is divided into five zones namely West, North, East, Central and Southern regions.
Tennis Zimbabwe made a deliberate move to rotate the hosting of such tournaments to cities across the country as a way of spreading the game to every corner of Zimbabwe.
“Tennis Zimbabwe is grateful to the International Tennis Federation (ITF) and Confederation of African Tennis (CAT) for showing confidence in us to host this tournament, which presents a good opportunity for our kids to showcase their talent and compete at a higher level,” said TZ president Biggie Magarira.
Coaches are Nomvelo Ngwenya from Bulawayo’s Petra College and Farai Tapfuma from Harare’s Alexandra Sports Club.