By Peter Kanjere
Malawi national netball team’s downward spiral continued yesterday when they lost to Zambia for the first time in their history ending the dominance in netball the Queens have enjoyed over their eastern Neighbours.
They lost 54-56 to Africa Netball Championship hosts, Zambia, in Lusaka on Thursday.
This is the second loss in three games played at Olympic Youth Development Centre which effectively ends the Queens’ championship dream.
Zambia is ranked 17th out of 35 teams in the world whereas Malawi are placed sixth.
It was the latest setback for Malawi having, on Wednesday, been defeated by reigning champions, Uganda’s She-Cranes 46-51, before recovering to see off Botswana 58-32.
Yesterday, Malawi led 17-14 in the opening quarter before the hosts pulled level at 29-29 at break.
The Queens restored the lead at 45-43 in the third quarter—only for the inevitable to happen in the final quarter.
Coach Charles Zulu led the Zambian team which comprised players such as Juliet Kaputeni, Petronella Bwalya, Diana Banda, Ethel Kamba, Elizabeth Bwalya and Roda Zulu.
The Queens, who are without injured star shooter Mwawi Kumwenda, have lost their invincibility due to failure to invest in netball, resulting in a lack of new blood.
Coach Griffin Saenda Senior featured Joyce Mvula, Jane Chimaliro, Bridget Kumwenda, Thandie Galeta, Martha Dambo, Joana Kachilika and Lauren Ngwira in the starting line-up.
The Queens wind up the campaign by playing against Namibia today and Kenya tomorrow.
Malawi went to the championship, hoping to regain the title. But that dream is over. The only consolation is that Malawi are assured of a World Cup place, owing to their sixth place on the rankings.
The championship, which is also a Netball World Cup regional qualifier, has attracted six teams who, minus Malawi, are eyeing two qualifying places for the world event scheduled for Liverpool next year.
The tournament has attracted Zambia, Malawi, Uganda, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Botswana.
There are 35 ranked national netball teams in the world and eight in Africa.