Ricky Zililo, Senior Sports Reporter
THE Basketball Union of Zimbabwe (Buz) hopes the fourth edition of the Southern Africa 3X3 Under-18 basketball tournament planned for December in Bulawayo will go ahead as scheduled following relaxation of Covid-19 regulations.

The competition will run from December 3-6.

Following an announcement by the Government that international flights will start in October, Buz is hopeful countries coming to compete in the tournament will also have opened borders in time for the games.

Ten countries, which include hosts Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa and Indian Ocean islanders Madagascar and Seychelles, have confirmed their participation in writing.

“We’re monitoring the situation (Covid-19 updates) and there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel. The good news is that Zimbabwe is opening borders and remember, we are not playing alone, so we will see if other nations do likewise.

“We are hoping that by December, we will be able to stage the tournament, but we will keep monitoring the situation and we will be guided by the Government,” said Joe Mujuru, the Buz president.

Buz yesterday also expressed gratitude to the Bulawayo City Council (BCC) for granting them authority to stage the Southern Africa 3X3 Under-18 basketball tournament at the City Hall car park.

Buz, which has started engaging potential partners, says hosting the event at the City Hall car park will draw lots of spectators since it’s a central venue.

Zimbabwe won the last edition of the Under-18 competition dubbed ‘Three Lions 3X3 Southern Cup’ held in Botswana last year.

The International Basketball Federation (Fiba) excluded regional powerhouses Angola and Mozambique from participating in the competition to give participating countries a battling chance of clinching the series.

Mujuru said: “It is huge support that the councillors sat and agreed to grant us permission to host an international competition right at the City Hall car park. We are excited with this vote of confidence as we continue engaging strategic partners so that Zimbabwe, particularly Bulawayo, stages a competition to remember.”

Bulawayo has in the last six years hosted major tournaments such as the AUSC Region 5 Under-20 Championships in 2014, the Afro-Basket and African Games qualifiers in 2015 and the Zone Six Basketball Club Championships in 2018.

Buz rotates international competitions and in January Zimbabwe played host to Afro-Basket 2021 preliminaries in Harare.

Mujuru says the tournament will leave a lasting legacy in Bulawayo, especially coming after the lockdown.

When Bulawayo played host to the 2014 AUSC Region 5 Under-20 Games, the floor and electronic timers that were imported from the United States of America remained in the city and continue to be used for regional competitions and domestic events.

Fiba is on a drive to market 3X3 basketball, which has been incorporated into the Olympics, and by hosting the December competition, part of the legacy equipment to benefit Bulawayo include floor and electronic timers that will be used in the tournament.

In the build-up to the competition, Buz planned to stage selection competitions once the Covid-19 lockdown ends. — @ZililoR