FRANCE-BASED Zimbabwean basketball star Vitalis Chikoko faces a lengthy spell on the sidelines after suffering a serious foot injury while in action for his club Élan Béarnais Pau-Orthez on Monday evening. BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
Chikoko, who has been enjoying a dream debut season in the French top-flight basketball league, the Ligue Nationale de Basket (LNB) Pro A, suffered a fracture in his right foot during his team’s 93-92 overtime victory away to Olympique Antibes.
The 26-year-old gifted centre had scored 21 points and claimed six rebounds during the match in Antibes before an opponent stepped on his right foot after he had just taken another rebound for Élan Béarnais Pau-Orthez.
The nine-time French club champions confirmed Chikoko’s injury on their official website on Wednesday before adding that it would rule him out of action for a minimum of three weeks.
“The superb overtime victory achieved on Monday night in Antibes was ruined by the injury of Vitalis Chikoko towards the end of the game. The Élan Béarnais Pau-Orthez pivot and scorer of 21 points and six rebounds in the game was stepped on the right foot by an opponent when he had just caught a new rebound.
“Further assessment (to the injury) revealed a fracture of the foot which rules him out for a minimum of three weeks. This accident is another big blow to the group,” Élan Béarnais Pau-Orthez said.
The injury to Chikoko is a big blow to Élan Béarnais Pau-Orthez’s hopes of qualifying for the playoffs for the second consecutive season.
The French club recently drew the ire of the Basketball Union of Zimbabwe after reportedly refusing to release the Zimbabwean centre for the AfroBasket qualifiers held at the City Sports Centre in the capital last month.
His absence together with that of the other foreign-based players Julian Mavunga (Shiga Lakestars, Japan), Tondi Mushandu and Freddy Manyau (Jr) — both in the US — was clearly felt as Zimbabwe lost the two-match series to Mozambique 85-65 and 80-68.
Élan Béarnais Pau-Orthez had also refused to release Chikoko for the two-match Afrobasket playoffs against South Africa scheduled for Friday and Saturday in Johannesburg, South Africa.