HomeSportSpare a thought for basketball ...qualifiers on cards

Spare a thought for basketball …qualifiers on cards

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By Anesu Chakanetsa

BULAWAYO will host the AfroCan and AfroBasket basketball qualifiers at the ZITF (Hall 3) from February 20 to February 28 2023 .

Some teams in the region have confirmed their participation. 

Angola, Zambia, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe will compete in the Women’s AfroBasket Zone Six Qualifiers, with the finals of the quadrennial tournament pencilled for July 28 to August 6 in Kigali, Rwanda.

In the men’s AfroCan Zone Six Qualifiers, Zimbabwe will slug it out with Malawi, Zambia and Mozambique.

The tournament is still relatively new. 

It is also specifically for nations that will not compete in the World Cup African Qualifiers. 

But there have been mixed feelings over the neglect the game of basketball has had for some time in Zimbabwe. 

And this speaks well to the shoddy preparations Zimbabwe has been having towards the tournament the country is hosting.

Despite having training sessions around the country to select players, the team is yet to gather in camp.

Gathering in camp is a way to foster combinations, unity and fitness within players. 

When will lamentations of Zimbabwe basketball end?

Sport has been about proper funding over the past decade, and it is not a secret that prosperity in sport comes with proper funding. 

Harare City Hornets basketball team became a powerful force during the last decade because of proper funding. 

Playing for Zimbabwe National basketball team has become a question of patriotism. 

A National Team player who spoke on conditions of anonymity said: “It’s a great achievement for me to play for my country, but funding my own transport, water and refreshments has been tough,” he said. 

“We don’t need that at national team level. 

“Something is wrong with the system. 

“I will participate in the tournament to honour those who have called me to do national duty and to wear the green blazer.” 

This is despite that other regional teams have been having intense preparations for the games. 

They have been in camp, going through intense conditioning for the qualifiers. 

The Malawi men’s team has been training for the past two weeks led by experienced coach Griffin Kalua who has almost single handedly uplifted basketball standards in the country. 

The ZITF grounds is not new to Kalua, also a businessman, as he once won against Harare City Hornets and Foxes during a regional tournament, and playing there will give him great satisfaction. 

Helped by Justice Luwemba, Dominic Moyo and Hope Chisamanga in the technical department, Kalua is looking forward to mesmerise. 

Zambia has done everything for their men and women teams and are now working on bringing supporters to Bulawayo.

In a public Facebook post, Basketball Association of Zambia wrote: “Good evening ladies and gentlemen. Those who are willing to travel to Zimbabwe to support the national team, contribution fee is k500…..All the best Zambian supporters. Let’s do a proper thing, public funds need accountability.”

Bitter rivals Angola and Mozambique are always on point, confirming participation of their teams. 

The Angola men’s team has already qualified for the AfroCan tournament by virtue of reaching the semi-finals in the last edition held in Bamako, Mali in 2019. 

Zimbabwe though, have called big names to boost their squads. 

The senior men’s Zimbabwe Basketball Team assistant coach, Tawanda ‘Russy’ Nemutambwe is optimistic that the men’s  team will make it despite other regional teams intensifying their preparations. 

“We are aware of other teams preparedness but I think we have what it takes to qualify,” said Nemutambwe.

“We have beaten heavyweights like Mozambique before, so we are not afraid of any team.” 

Coach ‘Russy’ said the inclusion of Vitalis Chikoko playing for Èlan Béarnais Pau-Orthez in France will also be a major boost. 

“We have a major boost with the inclusion of Vita (Chikoko) in the team and he will of course bring a lot of experience in the team,” he said.

The team also boasts the experienced Tawanda Chitsinde, Tatenda Maturure and Agrippa Masvisvi. 

Noah Penduka, the man of the moment will add the flair to the team. 

The ladies team led by coach Andrew Chitauro is going for experience, with the Mbare-bred Swedish based Mellisa Majonga topping the stars list. 

Other foreign based players include South Africa-based Emma Makoni, a Zambia quintet of Lopez Viki, the big and tall Gertrude Mapiye, Cynthia Mambo, Sthabile Ngandini and Mary Chawapiwa.

Locally-based experienced players like Fransisca Sekete, Ellen Chikoto, pint-sized but dynamic Nyasha Katsatse, Tadiwa Mabika, Happiness Maroto, Thelma Goredema and Helena Machavire will add some flare to the squad. 

Former Varsity Leopards Star Edmond Mtetwa turned pundit bemoaned lack of marketing and publicity of the upcoming tournament.

“There is lack of marketing and publicity of the tournament,” he said. 

“The mass media has not even been engaged and many people do not even know about the tournament.” 

Bulawayo is generally a sport-loving community. 

When football, cricket and even basketball national teams play in Bulawayo, the fans throng to the venues.

It is therefore prudent for responsible authorities, the corporate world, media and all the interested parties to spare a thought for basketball in Zimbabwe.

After all, these are national teams playing.

Surely they deserve better. 

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