FRANCE-based Zimbabwe basketball star Vitalis Chikoko reckons lack of support from the Kirsty Coventry-led Ministry of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation and other relevant stakeholders has stifled the growth of the sport in the country despite its massive potential.
Basketball has for years played second fiddle to other mainstream sporting disciplines, such as football, rugby, and cricket, in terms of corporate and government support despite its big fan base.
While other quarters have blamed the sport’s struggles on a lack of sound administration, Chikoko believes the sport has been punching well above its weight despite being constantly given a raw deal by relevant stakeholders.
The 32-year-old senior men’s national team captain, who has been the country’s flag bearer in Europe for over a decade made the comments after leading the country from the front during the FIBA Africa Zone 6 Qualifiers held in Bulawayo recently.
Zimbabwe’s men’s side missed out on the ticket to the 2023 FIBA AfroCan finals to be held in Angola in July after losing 71-59 to Mozambique in the final qualifying match while the women’s team settled for third position behind Angola and Mozambique.
And Chikoko says Zimbabwe, who had caused an upset against the well-resourced Mozambicans in the first round of the qualifiers before coming short in the final, could have done better with adequate support.
“Despite lack/very minimal resources both teams showed up and gave their all on the court,” Chikoko said.
“Everyone has an opinion of what could have been and who could have done what. Personally, l implore the authorities, especially our minister, Kirsty Coventry to recognise basketball and render all the needed support, especially in tournaments like these.
“With better preparation and resources, Zimbabwe stands a chance to be a top contender for the basketball reins in the continent. We have immense talent, both new and old who are hungry for the game,” he said.
Chikoko, who has been using his growing influence in the European game to try and uplift the game in the country, said he was saddened to note that the team continues to struggle to access basic necessities, which are important to ensure the team is adequately prepared.
The Prince Edward School alumni noted that the team struggled to secure access to training facilities and balls while the team only arrived at the tournament venue in Bulawayo well after their rivals due to transport woes.
“But that’s only possible if you come through and with at least the basic support like camping accommodation, balls, access to training facilities for preparation, transport to the venue, providing sufficient lighting fit for games etc,” Chikoko said.
“It’s sad that other countries got to the venue before us yet we were the host country. Other countries almost always had ambassadors or delegations present for their games in support of their teams. We appreciate the presence of officials that showed up on the first day of games, special mention to Honourable Temba Miswa who’s been voicing our plight since then.”
The Zimbabwe national team star has been based in Europe since 2011 when he moved to German club BG Goettingen.
After one season with Goettingen, Chikoko went to TBB Trier before his journey led him to Italy with Reggio Emilia and Verona.
He returned to Germany with FC Bayern Munich before moving to France in 2016 to join Pau-Orthez, where he is now enjoying a second dance having also featured for the Paris-based Metropolitans 92.
During his time in France’s top-tier Jeep Elite ProA, Chikoko has earned three successive All-Star nominations in the last three seasons while also being a serious contender for the Jeep Elite ProA Most Valuable Player (MVP) to underline his status as one of the big stars of the French top division. – News Day