By Veronica Gwaze
Gems’ goal defender Felisitus Kwangwa was back in the news again this past week, with the 25-year-old’s historic move to Surrey Storm, the talk of the town.
Kwangwa is set to play with the best, having put pen to paper for a year-long deal with the Vitality Netball Super league team.
However, despite the attention, the Gems’ captain remains grounded.
“I am really delighted by such an opportunity, as it has come when I least expected it.
“We are not the highest-ranked team on the International Netball Federation rankings, so you can imagine my surprise when the news filtered in,” she said.
“I have been looking forward to such an opportunity since 2012 when I made my debut for the young Gems, but I had lost hope.
“Now, I finally get the chance to live my dream, eight years later,” she said.
Zimbabwe’s participation at last year’s Netball World Cup aside, the Surrey move could well be Kwangwa’s biggest achievement.
Kwangwa got her first big break in 2013, when she got employed as a prison officer at Khami Prison through netball.
She was subsequently transferred to Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison in 2016.
Her international break came in 2014, before a knee injury in 2017 at the African Championships in Uganda, threatened to put a premature end to her career.
The knock sidelined her for more than a year.
She briefly contemplated early retirement.
After a steady and speedy recovery, she bounced back in style at the 2018 African Championships in Zambia, where the Gems qualified for last year’s World Cup finals.
It was during the World Cup finals in England that Kwangwa caught the eye of Surrey Storms, as she played an integral part of Zimbabwe’s fairy-tale run at the tournament and scooped the Most Valuable Player awards in the Gems clashes against Barbados and Northern Ireland.
Now, her career seems to have come full circle as a bib with Surrey Storm awaits.
In her last interview with The Sunday Mail Sport just before the team left for the World Cup last year, Kwangwa revealed that her last remaining wish was to be the first Zimbabwean player to sign a professional contract with an international club.
“You know as a player there are things that you always wish and pray for, and goals you set for yourself.
“This is what I prayed and strived for.
“Surrey Storm actually wanted me shortly after the World Cup last year, but failed because they could only sign foreigners from teams in the top 12,” she said.
“With our rankings, I had lost hope and that was heartbreaking for me.
“Now that it’s reality, it feels so amazing,” she said.
Kwangwa is now banking on her World Cup experience to help her fit into her new home.
“I am grateful for the World Cup opportunity, and as a player, I can only continue to work hard and get better.
“For me this is going to be a tough year, each day being an opportunity to learn and horn my craft.
“When I come back, the world should expect transformed Gems. I am going there to learn, gather as much experience as I can and bring a bagful for the Gems.
“This will be more like an educational expedition, as I acquire experience for my goal-defending antics.
“I will draw lessons for other positions to impart to the Gems.”
Gems head coach Lloyd Makunde is among the personalities that have since come out singing Kwangwa’s praises.
“Kwangwa has speed, good passing techniques, high basic qualities and is gifted when it comes to steals and deflections,” he said. “When she steps onto the court, she ceases to call herself a defender; she attacks when the need arises, she receives the centre passes and comes to guard the ring.
“At the World Cup, during our game against Northern Ireland, I could never single out one player, but she stood tall and I will forever marvel at that fine show.
“I wish her well on the journey ahead; and as one of her coaches, I am proud beyond measure,” he said.
Army side ZDF Queens’ goal keeper Rudo Karume, who plays alongside Kwangwa, described her asan extraordinary athlete.
“Kwangwa has the ability to bring the best out of each and every one of her teammates.
“I respect her for her character and have faith in her abilities,” said Karume.
“I am happy with the doors that have opened up for her and wish her all the best.” The Sunday Mail