Bexhill man leads Zambia to World Championships qualification

Charles Wright and the Zambia women's triples bowls team which has qualified for the 2020 World Championships
Charles Wright and the Zambia women's triples bowls team which has qualified for the 2020 World Championships

A Gullivers Bowls Club player has helped an African nation qualify for a global competition.

Charles Wright was team manager of the Zambia Bowls Association women’s triples team which has booked its place in next year’s World Outdoor Championships.

Despite many obstacles and unforeseen difficulties, the Zambia team of Gertrude Siame (Nchangi BC), Sophie Matipa (Ndola BC) and Eddah Mpezeni (Kitwe BC), with Wright at the helm, qualified from its section of 11 teams.

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The Atlantic Championships, held recently in Cardiff, were used as a qualifying event for the World Championships and 61-year-old Wright was recruited last December to help the team while it was in the UK.

As well as being a Gullivers member, Wright also plays at Central Sports Bowls Club (Lusaka) when he stays in Zambia.

Wright was originally selected as a player in singles and pairs but, at the last minute, funding was not made available and several players were denied visas, so he was left with the responsibility of ensuring the Zambians qualified from the one event that they entered.

He said: “When I was denied a place in the singles and pairs, it was most disappointing as I have been in reasonable form, but the opportunity to manage/coach a team at a major World Bowls event was a wonderful opportunity for me to showcase the coaching programme which I am involved in, as well as pitting my managerial skills against other international teams.”

Playing in section one, Zambia were in a strong group with the favourites South Africa and Wales, as well as Botswana, Turkey, Malta, Spain, Guernsey, Ireland, Cyprus and Argentina.

Zambia beat Botswana 19-17 and the much-fancied Guernsey team 20-12 before losing 18-14 despite being one shot up with two ends to play.

They bounced back with a 15-11 victory over Turkey in a bad tempered encounter and a 33-6 demolition of Cyprus. Zambia then lost to South Africa, Wales, Argentina, Malta and Spain.

The hard work had been done at the beginning of the tournament, however, and Zambia finished fifth, which was enough to send them to the World Championships in Australia next May and June, assuming the funding is found to send the team and their manager.

Wright said: “Personally, I was disappointed with fifth place, as a bronze medal was there for the taking. However, as this is the first time that Zambia has actually qualified for the World Championships, I suppose I should be pleased.

“There was little time to work with the players and if we were able to get the funding to allow me to work with this group, I would expect them to be hunting down a medal in Australia.

“These world qualifiers are set up to ensure the ‘big guns’ qualify in all events, and Zambia shook up a number of people in Cardiff with their excellent bowling and the spirit in which they played the game.

“In particular, their etiquette was first class, especially as this is something which is fast going out of the game.

“While the local clubs encouraged us, I did not feel that the World Bowls hierarchy treated Zambia fairly in certain regards. However, as this will become an official matter, it is best that I say no more at this stage.”

Any local business wishing to help sponsor the Zambian team and management for Australia 2020 should contact Wright by emailing charleswright217@gmail.com