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Virus delays formation of basketball wheelchair teams

Monday July 13 2020
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A section of the Kenya Wheelchair Basketball Women's national team players training for the Africa qualifiers for Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games at Nyayo National stadium basketball court in Nairobi in January 2020. PHOTO | POOL |

By VICTOR OTIENO

The formation of the Under-19 and 23 Kenya Wheelchair Basketball national teams will take longer owing to the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The International Wheelchair Basketball Federation (IWBF) Africa had on April 20 directed its members to form the teams by August, with a view of staging an U-23 tournament thereafter. 

The move was aimed at promoting the game in the continent.

Kenya is among several countries that have only one wheelchair basketball national team (men’s and women’s).

With the directive coming at a time when the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted sports activities globally, it meant an uphill task for Kenya Wheelchair Basketball
Federation (KWBF)

KWBF president Alfred Simiyu said the decision by the government to close down schools until next year because of the pandemic has scuttled their plans, as they had hoped to get players to join the teams from special secondary schools.

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He is not certain of when the teams will be ready, stating they may be forced to wait until next year. 

“While the government has lifted restrictions, like movement in and out of other towns, it is still not an easy task because we can only trace the youths through schools and that will not happen soon, so we are in a dilemma,” said Simiyu, who doubles up as the vice president of IWBF East and Central Africa region.

After they have found the prospective players, trials will be conducted with the best 12 in every category being selected to join the teams. 

But even as KWBF officials look into ways of forming the two teams, Kenya’s fate in international competitions hangs in the balance over a looming ban by the IWBF.

The world wheelchair basketball governing body had slapped KWBF with a fine of $25600 (Sh2.7 million)for failing to send teams to the Africa qualifiers for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games held from March 1 to 7 in South Africa.

According to Simiyu, Kenya who are the East African champions were forced to pull-out of the competition three days to kick-off, after the government failed to keep ts word of providing them with travel tickets.

He said the federation is in contact with the sports commissioner on settling the fine. 

IWBF will use part of the fine to compensate for the expenses it incurred, having made early arrangements for Team Kenya on accommodation, food and transport, after KWBF confirmed participation.

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