Netball now played in war-torn Afghanistan
PRESIDENT of the International Netball Federation (INF), Jamaica's Molly Rhone, has expressed pleasure with the expansion of the sport, which has grown from 30 members in 2003 to almost 80 in the 11 years since she became head of the sport's world governing body.
The latest additions are in the Asian region with Laos, Vietnam, The Philippines, and war-torn Afghanistan becoming members. Netball will also be included for the first time in the 2015 edition of the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games.
"Singapore is really doing a great job for us," Rhone told The Gleaner, adding that the Southeast Asian country was spearheading recruiting in that part of the world.
Afghanistan is a radical Islamic state known for its oppression of women and Rhone was pleased with the addition in 2014.
"That's great," said Rhone. "That's one good thing about netball, they can send their girls out knowing they're playing with girls. That's one thing, countries where women are somewhat suppressed, the fact that they can come out and play, supports our first focus in that they are playing a sport and keeping active."
Argentina, which became a member of the INF fewer than 10 years ago, recently played in the Americas regional qualifiers for the 2015 Netball World Cup in Sydney, Australia.
The South American country was the only Spanish-speaking nation to participate in a group which included eventual qualifiers Trinidad and Tobago, and Barbados, along with Cayman Islands, Grenada, the United States, and Canada.
Netball is officially recognised as an Olympic sport by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), but Rhone said she was not sure if the growth of the sport across Europe, Asia, and South America would mean the sport would become part of the Olympics.
"I don't know. I don't go there. I don't know what's going to make us part of the Olympics. We have just to do what we do well and continue to spread the game."
The sport is currently played in most Commonwealth countries.
"It's hard to find a Commonwealth country not playing netball," said Rhone. "It's a very, very strong sport in the Commonwealth."