South Sudan to lock horns with Egypt, Kenya in FIBA AfroBasket Qualifiers

South Sudan to lock horns with Egypt, Kenya in FIBA AfroBasket Qualifiers
Women basketball team coach Lindsey Harding giving instructions to the team during the match. [Photo: Courtesy]

The national women’s basketball team will kick off a lengthy journey to the 2023 FIBA Women’s Afrobasket final even as they keep an eye keenly tacked on the 2014 Olympics in Paris.

The 2023 Afrobasket will act as qualifiers for the Paris Olympic Games. That means that the regional qualifiers, that Zone 5 qualifiers, set to throw off on February 14, in Kampala, Uganda, will be do-or-die for any team, including South Sudan.

For now, the ladies in ‘white and black’ know that the work is cut out for them. To progress to the next round, South Sudan must sail past host Uganda, Kenya, Egypt, and Rwanda at the regional qualifiers, whoch are set to run from February 14–18.

Rwanda has already qualified for the finals by virtue of being the host.

Should they grab the Zone 5 ticket, South Sudan will join the three-time defending champions Nigeria, Mali, Cameroon, and Senegal, who have secured their places in the final round by virtue of reaching the semi-finals of the 2021 Women’s AfroBasket in Yaounde, Cameroon. They will be joined by six other teams from other zones.

The lengthy qualifier will run through June, with the final round being staged in July in Kigali.

Every team knows that booking a ticket to the continental stage will increase their chances of taking part in Paris, the next host for the multi-sport event—the Olympics.

Kenya, the current Zone 5 title holders, and Egypt represented Zone 5 in the 2021 Women’s Afrobasket. South Sudan recognizes the importance of working extra hard to advance to the next phase.

“The presentation came at the perfect time, and with these, it is going to improve our team’s preparation,” South Sudan Basketball Federation (SSBF), vice chair Mackmot Orom, said after receiving SSP 75 million from one of the team’s sponsors.

Two years ago, in Kigali, Kenya booked a second straight ticket to the FIBA Women’s AfroBasket final and seventh overall, when they defeated favourites Egypt 99-83.

Egypt finished sixth after winning three of its six games in the final round in Yaounde. The Pharaohs were denied a place in the semi-finals after a 67-61 loss to hosts Cameroon. Kenya, on the other hand, finished ninth.

The federation said the fund was a shot in the arm for a team that needs every shred of motivation heading into a deadly battle where only the strongest will survive.

“We are excited with the support, particularly the willingness to collaborate with us in promoting basketball,” added Orom.

The cash, which is part of a three-year deal entered into with a local telco company, will also fund part of the men’s FIBA Africa World Cup Qualifiers.

The final World Cup Men’s Qualifying round will take place in early February 2023. South Sudan needs just a win to book a maiden appearance on the global stage.