With just a few days remaining before the FIBA Polynesia Cup in Apia next week, Tonga’s national men’s basketball team face a race against time to fly to Samoa for the tournament.
The team are approximately NZ$1030 short of the funds required for accommodation here, with no financial support coming from government or FIBA (the International Basketball Federation).
Cahn Fitzgerald, a passionate supporter of the team has been getting the message out to anyone and everyone that could help.
She works for Infrastructure Pacific Limited in Auckland, New Zealand, and her company are among the very few to have contributed.
“We’re getting by on the kindness of people’s hearts, and trying our very best to make the Cup,” she said.
“Whether it’s putting it out there to friends, rushing around fundraising with raffles.
“We’re just hoping and praying we can get on the plane.”
The team planned to have a camp in Tonga leading up to the tournament, but that became financially unviable.
Most of the team started training in New Zealand yesterday, with a couple of players in Tonga depending on a local company to get them air fares.
“Without them we have five players here basically ready to go, that’s just enough to put a team on the court,” Cahn said.
Two players based in the UK and the USA have paid their own way to New Zealand to join the team.
Player/coach Aminiasi Malua said the team are excited to bring something new to the court if they make it.
“This is 18 years in the making, that was our last FIBA event.
“(The struggle for funding) is new for us, but other country’s basketball federations might be in the same boat.”
Malua has personally put money up to help make the trip happen.
Cahn said he has a lot of passion for the game of basketball in Tonga.
“The players are really passionate too, we all want to be there so it’s all about the money right now.
“Our goal for the Cup is obviously to win and qualify for the Pacific Games, but the main thing is getting the team there so we can encourage our youth to see past their circumstances and dream big.”