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Sithole’s tweet to Mthethwa makes the right noise

Basketball being used for short-sighted political gain should be a thing of the past

ALL hands-on deck! That is the requirement needed for South African basketball to be a respected sport and part of the conversation as a national past-time. Anybody who has felt the magic when a basketball bounces on a hardwood or a concrete turf, more than ever, the sport needs you.

Basketball player Thabo Sithole’s chastising tweet on Sunday to current Sports, Arts and Culture minister, Nathi Mthethwa and his predecessors ended with the words ‘DO SOMETHING.’ Yes, something needs to be done about the state of basketball in this country. Whether the minister will respond accordingly to Sithole’s call to action, is a game of wait and see. But his intervention would be welcome.

As a fraternity, we can no longer sit on the bench and wait for a miracle. The mediocrity in the leadership of basketball in South Africa has gone on for far too long. Here are a few examples of the state of affairs in basketball. For two years running (2017/20182018/2019) the SRSA Eminent Person Group has classified South African basketball as dysfunctional and in 2015 online publication, Daily Maverick reported R2-million in lottery funding allocated for Basketball South Africa had grown legs.

This state of affairs points to a sport in disarray and the onus falls on the entire basketball fraternity to ensure that the sport is steered in the right direction. For that to happen, all hands need to be on deck; that includes fans, players and elected officials at various levels (district, provincial and national). We cannot stop only at words!

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Thabo Sithole pleaded for intervention at the highest level. PICTURE: THE BTO

South Africa, like the rest of the world is in the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic and like sportscaster and former South African national team player Quintin Denyssen pointed out on this platform “the hard reset of the world is an opportunity for South African basketball to get things right”.

This time should be used to address and correct the issues affecting South African basketball. South Africa needs to be part of the conversation in basketball on the African continent and beyond. This means making our structures functional and having a coordinated calendar for our programmes, covering schools, varsities, clubs, provinces and national teams. It also means including the Basketball National League (BNL) as a partner in the rebuilding project, especially in establishing a national women’s league.

Basketball being used for short-term and political gain in South African sports should be a thing of the past. It should be used to serve present and future generations, and to celebrate our national basketball heroes who have contributed to shaping the game.

The one benefit South African basketball has in bucket loads is sharp minds, and a solid knowledge base that can be tapped into. One just has to follow South African basketball social media pages to realise how much potential and commitment there is in those circles to rebuild the structures of basketball. From those circles, the future leadership of basketball is also inherent and can be leveraged to serve in various governance positions. It may mean some individuals might have to wear more than one hat in the service of basketball. At this stage, whatever it takes!

The issues facing basketball mentioned in this article may be but a drop in the ocean, and the surface has barely been scratched on the extent of the sport’s potential in this country. In many ways, there is essentially a chicken and egg situation: basketball in South Africa has to become fully functional in order to attract the kinds of resources that are needed for it to serve the much needed developmental objective we all desire.

In closing, Thabo Sithole’s tweet to the minister made the necessary noise. The basketball fraternity has to seize the moment! Because we all want basketball to get its bounce back on South African courts.

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