For the first time in the history of basketball in Botswana, the national U-18 women’s team has qualified for the Africa Nations Basketball Championships to be held in Cairo, Egypt, next month. However, the team’s preparations are clouded with uncertainties due to shortage of funds.
Botswana Basketball Association (BBA) Technical Director, Mothusi Thipe, told The Patriot on Sunday that despite all this, the team will travel to the championships scheduled for 19-28 September 2014. They are expected to leave the country for Egypt on 17th September. According to Thipe, the association needs a minimum of P240 000 to take the team for the championships. “Even though the preparations of the team are compromised at the moment due to shortage of funds, this will not stop them from taking part in Africa’s biggest championships,” insisted Thipe.
He said the current U-18 squad is a strong team that stands to do well at the championships. The team has been in preparations as far as November 2013 prior the Africa Youth Games until now. They are currently on camp. Thipe is worried that since the players are students and are from different parts of the country, it is going to be difficult to bring them together after the camp to keep playing together before the tournament. “We had wanted to bring the players together on weekends but we do not have enough funds for this,” explained Thipe. The association is currently without any sponsor other than BNSC and they find it tough to finance their operations. Thipe has therefore, appealed to potential sponsors to come to their aid.
The local team finally got its qualification to the African Basketball Championships through an automatic node following the withdrawal of some teams from the Zone VI qualifiers. Botswana had to compete against Zimbabwe, Zambian and Mozambique for the two slots available for Zone VI countries. However, after the withdrawal of Zambia and Zimbabwe from the qualifiers Botswana and Mozambique were awarded places at the championships.
Despite the free ticket for Botswana, Thipe is adamant they would have still qualified.
“This is a very strong team we have. Only two countries usually give us a problem in Zone VI being Angola and Mozambique. Since Angola had qualified automatically, it meant we were having only Mozambique to compete with,” said Thipe confidently. Most of the players that make up this team represented the country at the Africa Youth Games and are said to be in a good shape to compete with best in Africa.
Thipe said going to the African championships will give the team the opportunity to test their skills against 12 of Africa’s best countries in basketball. “We cannot put them under pressure to win the tournament since we know what they are up against. What we need for them is to have exposure at the highest level of the game. This is the future national team so we need to prepare them to be the best when they grow up, so competitions of this magnitude help a lot in this regard,” Thipe said.