Facilitation struggles for national sports teams in qualifying for major events are hardly a new phenomenon.
Even worse when you soldier through the qualification phase only to be told there is no money for you to represent the country as the national women basketball team, the Gazelles, discovered in 2015.
Then, the Gazelles had qualified for the All Africa Games but missed out on the show in Brazzaville after government communicated they had no funds for the trip. And even when national teams, a case in point basketball and netball, have manoeuvred to the finals and competed, tales of allowance inadequacies have followed them.
The aforementioned and more is what Federation of Uganda Basketball Associations (Fuba) president, Nasser Sserunjoji, wants to avoid ahead of the 2021 AfroBasket men’s qualifiers due in November.
“This is to NCS (National Council of Sports),” Sserunjoji, looking straight into the NTV Press Box cameras on Monday night, addressed the authorities.
“We submitted our budgets sometime in August last year. We again submitted some time in November of last year. We wrote another letter to NCS in January this year reminding them of all our international events."
“Afrobasket is a must for us as Uganda. We can’t afford to miss out. This is a big thing for us as Uganda and Ugandan Basketball.”
Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, Fuba were forced to cancel the national league and all other international engagements for this year to focus only on Afrobasket “because we know how important it is.” Sserunjoji also sent another letter to NCS on Monday reminding them specifically of Afrobasket qualifiers.
Appearing on the same sports show via Zoom, NCS chairperson Don Rukare said everyone was getting to terms with the current situation brought upon us by Covid but was hopeful all will be fine.
“As NCS and government we are doing our best to have sports back, and we are also working to ensure we support our national teams to international tournaments,” said Rukare.
“As we speak, our athletes Joshua Cheptegei, Halima Nakaayi, Winnie Nyanyondo and Stephen Kissa are in Monaco for the Diamond League and we ask all Ugandans to run with them on Friday.”
Fuba’s budget for the men’s national team, the Silverbacks, for the first round of qualification in November is slightly over $100,000 (Shs368m).
This first window is in Egypt. The second qualification window, also requiring the same amount, is on February 19-21 next year in Morocco. “We plan to have a two weeks camp in Alexandria, Egypt to enable the foreign based players gel with our locally based players,” explained Sserunjoji.
“If you don’t take part or even fail to qualify, it will take us another four years to get back to the international stage of basketball for our senior mens team, the Silverbacks.
“In short, the government through Ministry of Education and Sports and NCS must support us on this one.”
Qualification started in 2020, with nine teams participating in the pre-qualifiers, including the four eliminated teams from the 2019 World Cup African Qualifiers.
Rwanda, the 2021 AfroBasket hosts, qualify automatically for the August 24 to September 5 finals.
The finals tournament was originally scheduled for August 17-29 next year, but was moved back by a week due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The first qualifying match will be played on November 27 this year, with the Silverbacks opening against giants and hosts Egypt. Morocco are the other Group E opponents, with the fourth yet to be decided.