Ricky Zililo Senior Sports Reporter
SOUTH Africa has been confirmed as the first country to land in Bulawayo tomorrow for the week-long Afro-Basketball and All-Africa qualifiers to be held at the ZITF starting on Saturday.Basketball Union of Zimbabwe secretary-general Joe Mujuru said Zambia has withdrawn from the joint qualifiers leaving Zimbabwe, South Africa, Seychelles, Botswana and Angola to compete in the men and women’s categories from February 21-28.
Mujuru said they were happy that despite missing the Africa Union Sports Council Region 5 Under-20 Youth Games held last year in Bulawayo, Seychelles have confirmed that they will participate at the Afro-Basketball and All-Africa qualifiers.
“We’re bracing for a big tournament and countries have already started confirming their arrival dates so that we also make necessary bookings for them at the Games Village. South Africa who sent their chief executive officer to assess our state of preparedness fly straight to Bulawayo on Wednesday morning with powerhouse Angola coming through Harare on Friday. Botswana will be coming by road through Plumtree Border Post probably on Friday but it might even be earlier than that,” said Mujuru.
“Save for Seychelles who informed us that they’re bringing a men’s team, all the nations will have the men and women’s teams.”
The top team in each category will earn a slot for the Afro-Basketball Championships to be co-hosted by Tunisia and Cameroon while the All-Africa Games will be held in Congo-Brazzaville later this year.
Angola men’s team, by virtue of being defending champions, have qualified for the Afro-Basketball finals, leaving Zimbabwe, South Africa, Seychelles and Botswana battling it out for a slot in the finals.
The Angolans’ mission will be winning the group so that they qualify for the All-Africa Games.
Mujuru believes it is a blessing in disguise for Zimbabwe that Zambia, who have a strong men’s team, withdrew from the tournament due to financial constraints. The host nation will now face tough opposition from South Africa in the Afro-Basketball qualifier.
In the women’s category, Zimbabwe are favourites to make it for both finals having been to the last edition of the All-Africa Games which were in Mozambique as well as the Afro-Basketball.
Meanwhile, technicians are expected to roll out the imported court at the ZITF today.