Participants for the World Championships are drawn from the winners of their respective continental finals and the Zimbabwe women’s Under 16 team failed to travel to Cairo, Egypt, for the African Nations Championships where Africa’s representatives were being chosen.
The team could not make it after failing to raise the $50 000 required to cover their stay for the continental competition in which they had been drawn to face the Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola, Mali, and Tunisia.
Zimbabwe had qualified for the continental finals after finishing top of the table in the Zone Six qualifiers held in Zambia last year. The Zimbabwean, along with Angola, were supposed to have been the two Zone Six representatives at African Nations Championships.
Their failure to travel meant the region had to be represented by only one country closing opportunities for other countries that took part in the Africa Zone Six Championships.
Shinga Magede, the chairperson of the Zimbabwe Basketball Union’s athletes commission, says it is a big blow that the youngsters have been denied a once in a lifetime opportunity to rub shoulders not only with the best on the continent but in the world as well.
He says had Zimbabwe gone to the African Nations Championships and qualified for the World Championships, the players stood a chance of landing lucrative opportunities with top basketball clubs in the world where they would have earned their living through the high paying sport.
Basketball, especially in the United States of America is among the highest paying sporting disciplines.
The potential of the Zimbabweans was not in doubt as they won three out of their four matches at Zone Six qualifiers where they overcame South Africa, Zambia, Botswana, and lost out only to Mozambique.
The African Nations Championships are part of the Federation of the International Basketball Association and the Zimbabweans also faces a $10 000 fine from the international body for missing out of the competition after having confirmed their participation.
Magede, however, says they did their best in as much as sourcing of funds is concerned but the response had not been very positive from both the public and the private sector.
The biennial World Under 17 women’s basketball Championships will be held in Rootterdam, Netherlands, from August 1 to August 31, next year, and for the Zimbabwean team, it is an opportunity lost, as they will be above required age to participate again.