By Mark Etheridge
The global travel crisis following the Icelandic volcano eruption has reached out and affected South African sport in its ashen tentacles.
The grounding of thousands of European flights mean that the planned tour by the French wheelchair basketball team has had to be postponed.
The French team were supposed to land in South Africa on Tuesday but the tour has now been put on hold.
Explained Wheelchair Basketball SA Director Operations & Finance, Charles Saunders: “They had obviously spent all that money on flights and visas etc but have managed to negotiate with government and airways etc that their flights have been set aside for the next six months.
“So we still envisage them coming to play here, probably in September.”
The SA tour was going to be a vital part of the French team’s build up to July’s World Cup in Birmingham. “They were going to tour here then head into the European Cup and then the World Cup. But it looks like they’ll have to either head to Spain or Belgium for local opposition.”
South Africa missed out on qualifying for the World Cup, when they went down narrowly to Algeria in qualifying earlier this year. “We have also been affected by the disruption,” says Saunders. “Quite a few of our players are still stuck in Italy. One guy managed to jet in from the US because until now they haven’t been hit.
“So what we’ll do now is rebuild. The coach, Patrick Fick, has said the guys will take a break now then we head into the Super Series on May 1 before another break during the Soccer World Cup.
“Then we’ll also be concentrating on the TDI Selective programme for youngsters (16-18 years) whereby we identify young talent and monitor them over three years as we look to the future.”
The French will have to come to SA before October as that’s when most of the international leagues launch their season.
Locally there is also an African Southern Zone qualification tournament on September 22-26 in Limpopo.