IT takes a bit of some years for a sporting talent to be nurtured into a winning utility, but for teenage handball wunderkind, Ruth Mbewe, her rise to stardom does not come as a surprise to many enthusiasts.
At 16 years of age, Ruth is already exhibiting leadership qualities in the women senior national team as vice captain but she is not a star yet.
However, she has all the prerequisites it takes to climb to the top of world handball in her career.
“I started playing handball in 2012 after my friend Moria Kamfwa introduced me to the sport at the Olympic Youth Development Centre. On account of the passion that I developed for the sport, it didn’t take me long to make a mark in the sport.”
“I joined Lusaka Tigers the same year and because of my hard work and commitment, I was drafted in the national team and that’s how it all begun,” said Ruth.
In less than five years, Ruth has become one of the key players in the national team and she will have to prove her talent once more when Zambia hosts the qualifiers for the 2015 All Africa Games (AAG) that
are scheduled to take place in Congo Brazzaville in September.
Now, Ruth is returning all the efforts put in her in the last three years by rising to the occasion in leading the country to success.
She works hard and fair and gets better and better each time she is on the court to represent the country.
Sometimes one could see that she is still young, lacking a bit of focus. But the handball fraternity believes in her potential and they have given her more chances like anybody else in the team.
Her talent is priceless and last year, she scooped the 2014 best Junior Player’s Award for Southern Africa.
She was voted best Junior Player in the region because of her electric displays during the 2014 international Handball Federation (IHF) Zone Six challenge that was held in Lusaka.
“It was an honour for me to be voted best junior player in Southern Africa. It came as a surprise because I did not expect it in that there are top class players in countries like South Africa and
Mozambique whom we played against.”
“The accolade gave me impetus to move forward because now I know that
with hard work, I can achieve more of what the sport of handball has to offer around the globe,” she said.
Those who know Ruth well are sure that she needs more time to get mature, to realise how much work there is to do to become one of the best female handball players on earth, talent alone is not enough.
Ruth made her international debut during the 2012 Africa Junior championship in Congo Brazzaville and even though Zambia did not impress, mere participation earned her the confidence to soldier on.
“Having taken part in the IHF Zone Six challenge where we reached the final, I am looking forward to playing in the All Africa Games qualifiers that Zambia will host soon.”
“My dream is to turn professional and I will up my game and take advantage of the international platforms so that my talent and capabilities can be noticed by foreign clubs. I am also hoping of
playing at the Olympic Games some day in my career,” she said.
She is just one element of the female team but she will have to play a lot more matches before she attains the quality and experience needed to become one of the world’s greatest.
Many young players are filled with enthusiasm to succeed in the biggest handball events locally and internationally because they approach the tournaments as an experience and an opportunity to test
themselves against the best players the continent has to offer.
The Handball Association of Zambia (HAZ) has the capacity to produce a steady stream of elite men’s and women’s challengers and potential champions. It is therefore important for the association to put in
place junior programs aimed at strengthening the sport on the grassroots.
Who knows? There could be a number of potential players out there with incredible skills that could win trophies for the nation.
Like in every sport, junior programs instill the fundamentals at an early age, teaching the entire necessary handball strokes required to become great players, as well as making the junior handball experience inclusive and available to virtually all young people in the country.
Many junior players like Ruth that have chosen to play and devote their time to handball must be rewarded with proper coaching, equipment, and a facility to train.
Doing so stimulates on and off the court handball loyalty. It also helps those that are not quite as successful as others in the initial stage, to stay with the game.
The effect is that the junior players set a higher standard of expectations for themselves early in their careers and developing together at a rapid pace.
A fortnight ago, I was moved by an ardent reader of this column based in Luanshya. The youngster phoned me to find out if there are any handball clubs on the Copperbelt which he could join.
In his own words, the teenager stated, “Sir, I hope you’re fine. I have been reading your articles for quiet sometime now and I developed interest in the game of handball. Is there a club that I can join in Ndola or Luanshya? I am Mulenga Chanda of Luanshya.”
Chanda may not be the only one interested in the sport; therefore, this is a challenge to the Victor Banda led HAZ executive committee to ensure that handball spreads to all parts of the country.
This may seem unattainable owing to the financial factor that inhibits development in minor sports in the country. However, if pursued holistically by introducing the sport in schools, it reaps benefits in
the long run.
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