By Trevor Makonyonga
The appointment of Sithelelwe “Kwinji 15” Sibanda as assistant coach of Tsholotsho FC marks a new era in Zimbabwean football.
Her roles as player and coach at the Zimbabwe National Women’s team were not out of the ordinary, but this new role bestowed on her is an important landmark in sporting history as the country marches on with women empowerment.
She is currently rubbing shoulders with male counterparts as she sires the recently promoted team, and football fans are backing her all the way. Local football fan Tinashe Sifeku said, “It is so cool to have a female on the bench. She must have some distinctive qualities to be given that role. I wish her luck.”
Other fans saluted Tsholotsho for the move. “I commend Tsholotsho FC for the bold move. What Tsholotsho did proves that gender is not a case in soccer. It is an important development not only for Zimbabwean soccer but for Africa as a whole,” said Misheck Phiri.
Kwinji 15, as she is affectionately called has scored female fellowship to the sport which is mostly dominated by male supporters, and her team has seen a number of females in their stands marching in her favour. “I don’t know much of soccer but right now I will be supporting Tsholotsho because of Kwinji 15. I hope she excels more than all the men in the PSL,” said Tanaka Mangwende.
Emily Simango said, “Soccer having a female coach is like pouring manure on clay, it fertilises the land. I hope this is the change Zimbabwe football has been crying for.”
The historical appointment of Sibanda comes at a time where the Zimbabwe Football Association (ZIFA) is faced with a leadership crisis. A fan only identified as Jones said, “The appointment of a female coach in a male dominated field could be an indication to the solution ZIFA needs. With Sibanda in the PSL, maybe ZIFA needs to forget about Henrietta Rushwaya and get new female office holders.”
Sithelelwe Sibanda might be the first female coach in top flight soccer in Africa.
She played for the Mighty Warriors and was famous for her dominance in the midfield hence the nickname, “Kwinji 15” which was adopted from the former Highlanders and Dynamos great, Makwinji Soma-Phiri.