Field of dreams – Muchenu inspires new players

“I want to become the best female African basketball referee and I have a strong conviction that, if I work for it, I can earn it,” says Annie-Joice Muchenu. Nominated as an international basketball referee in 2008, Muchenu said she envisions a Zimbabwe where basketball is as popular as sports such as soccer and athletics.

Annie-Joice Muchenu flanked by fellow referees at the All Africa Games in September 2011.
Annie-Joice Muchenu flanked by fellow referees at the All Africa Games in September 2011.

One of the few African referees from Southern Africa to take part and referee in international games, Muchenu said she is inspired and motivated to become a basketball instructor who shares knowledge and expertise with up-and-coming referees throughout the continent.

“Five or so years from now, I see myself being one of the best African female referees and an instructor, contributing my fair share towards the development and professionalism of other referees, especially young women,” she said.

Muchenu said despite its challenging environment, Africa had good referees. The difference between African and European referees was that those from Europe had all the necessary support and resources from their governments.

“Referees need support and this should not be restricted to financial help. Refresher courses and more training are needed for the development of the game,” she said.

Born on December 2, 1979 in Germany, Muchenu is the eldest of a family of Three. She was educated at Louis Mountbatten School and at Marlborough high school in Harare.

“I have always enjoyed gardening and travelling. As a young girl, watching plants grow gave me a sense of accomplishment and it motivated me to believe that everything is possible,” said Muchenu. “A seed is just a seed when it’s not planted, but once nurtured under the right conditions, the seed can grow and bear fruits for all to see.”

She said that although basketball in Zimbabwe was not so popular, identifying and nurturing young talent at the grassroots level was critical to ensuring the country reached higher in the African standings.

“We are one of the best African countries in the Southern African region, despite the fact that some of these countries have professional players,” she said. “The government should play a leading role in sports development as a starting point and corporate and private organisations should complement and support these efforts to make the sport an all-inclusive game especially for rural students.”

Recalling all that her experience as a referee in international games has taughther, Muchena said she appreciates the value of discipline and professionalism.

She refereed at the FIBA Club Championships in Nairobi in 2008, at the Afrobasket tournaments in Madagascar in 2009, Mali in 2011 and Mozambique in 2012, She’s also refereed at the under 17 World Cup in France, All Africa games in 2011 and in Amsterdam at the under 19 World Championships.

“Sport brings people together. It is a unifier. The joy and pride that it brings can never be measured especially for those that take pride not only in winning but being part of such a wonderful and fulfilling experience,” she said.

“Aspiring sportswomen should not just focus on the monetary gains that come with being involved in sports. Train and groom yourself into a brand and recognise you for your worth.”

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