23 January 2007

ZIMBABWE : Basketball gears up for Zone VI

By Emmanuel Marambe

THE Basketball Union of Zimbabwe, who host the Zone Six Championships at the City Sports Centre next month, have already started preparations for the event with prospective national team players already fine-tuning for the tournament.



The tournament has been set for February 24 to March 3 and will serve a dual purpose as qualifiers for the upcoming All Africa Games in Algeria and the African Cup of Nations in Angola.

Both men’s and women’s teams will feature at the fiesta, which will attract participants from Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and hosts Zimbabwe.

The top two teams from both categories will qualify for the All Africa Games and Africa Cup.

Zimbabwe’s chances of qualifying for the men’s event have been enhanced due to the absence of African powerhouse Angola, who have qualified for both tournaments as the defending champions and hosts respectively.

Angola’s women national team will, however, feature at the event even though they have already qualified for the All Africa Games tournament.

The Angolan side’s participation at next month’s championships has been prompted by the decision to use the Zone VI championships as joint qualifiers for the All Africa Games and Africa Cup of Nations.
Incidentally, the Africa Cup also serves as the qualifying tournament for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
The championships will mark Zimbabwe’s return to official Federation of International Basketball Associations (FIBA) competitions following the lifting of the country’s suspension form the sport’s mother body.
Zimbabwe had been suspended from all FIBA-sanctioned competitions due to unpaid affiliation fees amounting to US$2400, which had accumulated over a seven-year period.

BUZ finally managed to pay off their debt late last year and FIBA subsequently lifted Zimbabwe’s suspension last November.
This will be the first time Zimbabwe has hosted the Zone VI preliminaries in eight years. At the time only male teams were involved.
And with the deadline for registration of teams being tomorrow, six countries, including the hosts, have registered to participate in the tournament in either category.

On the men’s side, Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa and Zambia have confirmed their participation in the tournament.

Angola, Botswana, Mozambique, South Africa and Zambia have registered their female teams.
"Malawi have since indicated to FIBA Africa that they cannot bring a women’s team hence they have only registered in the men’s category," said Addison Chiware, president of the Basketball Union of Zimbabwe.
"Lesotho have indicated that they will not be coming for the championships, but we are still hopeful that Namibia and Swaziland will confirm their participation before the deadline has passed."

Chiware also said that preparations for the successful hosting of the tournament are well on course with some vital equipment needed during the games already in the country.
"The venue is in good condition and we are now just sorting out issues on hygiene and equipment so that everything matches up to international standards.
"We already have an electronic scoreboard and 24-second clock while the statistics software is already on its way from FIBA Africa. Back-up plans have been put in place and we are working towards securing more of this equipment for back up just in case the stuff we have malfunctions.
"Getting more of this equipment is also in line with our capacity building vision and this tournament provides us with a massive opportunity to improve our basketball infrastructure," Chiware said.

On the playing side, Chiware indicated that prospective national team players, the majority of whom represented the country in last month’s friendly matches against Zambia, are holding weekend camps.

The men’s team is under the guidance of men’s national coach Ronald Garura while the women’s side is under Ngoni Mukukula.
"For now we are holding weekend camps for the men’s and women’s teams, but we plan on going into full-scale camp three to four weeks before the tournament," said Chiware.
In a related development, BUZ has revealed that FIBA will organise coaching clinics throughout the country as part of its development programme.

Two clinics have already been held since BUZ was re-admitted by FIBA with an international coaches’ clinic and referees’ clinic having been held last month.
"Last year we held a certificate-level coaches’ clinic so this year we should be having the diploma-level one as well as a zonal referees’ clinic as part of our capacity building drive," said Chiware.

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