Ellina Mhlanga, Harare Bureau
THE Zimbabwe senior women’s basketball team missed out on the opportunity to qualify for the AfroBasket Championships when they lost heavily to Mozambique in the qualifiers held in Maputo recently.
The two countries met last Thursday and Friday in a rescheduled programme after most of the expected countries did not confirm their participation.
Zimbabwe lost 88-30 in the first game before they went down again 90-40 in the second and coach, Erinos Katsaruware, said it was always going to be tough playing the Mozambicans, who have a strong development programme.
“Basically we did the best to our ability but Mozambique were too strong for us. But we managed to adjust in the second game with the girls scoring 10 more points, it was a good improvement. I think the girls fought hard and they really did their best.
“What I noticed when I went to Mozambique is that they have a strong junior programme, so before we practiced we noticed that they have got six-year-olds playing basketball, being coached by professional coaches.
“It’s not a matter of spending more time with the (national) teams, it’s a matter of starting from grassroots level. Even if we had had three months to train they were just too good for us. So it’s a process really. We need to start from grassroots level,” said Katsaruware.
The qualifiers had earlier on been expected to see 10 countries playing for the remaining ticket to the championships as Angola had already booked their place in the finals scheduled for Mali in September.
However, only Zimbabwe and hosts Mozambique took part in last Thursday and Friday’s qualifiers following the withdrawal of South Africa while the rest of the expected countries did not confirm their participation late last month.
Earlier on there were indications that there may be a wildcard for the second best team and Basketball Union of Zimbabwe president Addison Chiware said they are waiting for a feedback from FIBA, now that most of the countries did not participate.
“Unfortunately, we lost all the games. We are just waiting for that feedback (on the wildcard) this coming week and then I suppose other than that we will obviously continue in our rebuilding exercise for the women and (all) national teams.
“For the national teams, we will continue participating in tournaments and it will be very good if we could get a wildcard because it will continue to expose us to more competition.
“And it is our hope because of these programmes for the Under-16s, Under-18s and Under-20s we will get stronger and be able to challenge for podium finish,” said Chiware.
For the finals in Mali in September, Mozambique joins hosts Mali, Angola, reigning champions Senegal, Cameroon and Nigeria, who have already qualified for the 12-team tournament.