Uganda’s women national basketball side, the Gazelles have set their targets on qualifying for the 2019 Women AfroBasketball Championships scheduled to take place from August 16-25 in Madagascar.
But first, there is the ‘small matter’ of the FIBA Africa Zone 5 Qualifiers due May 24-31 in Kampala.
The last time the Zone 5 qualifiers took place in Kampala close to five years ago, the Gazelles qualified for their second ever Women Afrobasketball tournament after defeating Rwanda.
Gazelles Captain Flavia Oketcho is optimistic this is their year to qualify for the tournament as they are hungry for a return to basketball’s biggest show piece.
“As a national team, this is what we look forward to, a successful bid to be ranked among the best in Africa and the world. The FIBA Women’s AfroBasket offers this kind of stage and the one that we can use to showcase the amazing talent we have, so to us, qualifying is serious business,” she said.
Oketcho who was part of the Gazelles team that gained qualification in 2014 also noted that playing in front of their home crowd is an advantage they hold over other nations even before the first qualifier tips off.
“Playing at home is always a plus. The first time we hosted the FIBA Women’s AfroBasket 2015 Zone 5 Qualifiers, we were champions and qualified and we are hoping for the same outcome. The power of the home crowd is sensational,” Oketcho told fiba.basketball ahead of the qualifiers.
“Dedication, hard work, motivation, finance, support and advice is what it will take for us to qualify. It will take the nation to take us there. We need all the help we can get.”
Jamila Nansikombi who was named in the 2018 FIBA Africa Women’s Champions Cup Tournament Five, prodigy Jane Asinde, Ritah Imanishimwe, Zainah Lokwameri and Sarah Ageno are the other players that are likely to be tasked with delivering Uganda to the promised land.
The qualifiers are played in a Round-robin format with the top team from each zone advancing to the FIBA Women’s AfroBasket in Madagacar.
Just like in 2014, they will have to go past neighbors Rwanda, hotshots Egypt and Kenya for a slot in the final tournament.
Zone 4 champions Cameroon as well as African champions Nigeria, Senegal, Mali and Mozambique who secured automatic qualification as the 2017 semifinalists as well as hosts Madagascar have already booked tickets to the Finals.
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