'Severe Restrictions' Force Cancellation Of South Sudanese Basketball Tournament

The South Sudanese Australian Basketball Association has released a statement claiming upcoming tournaments had to be cancelled due to an inability to meet demands of Melbourne stadiums.

The SSANBA, which has held two national tournaments each year for the past 15 years, said due to "African gang stories" seen in recent media, stadium managers are "afraid" to host the association.

"The African youth issues that were widely covered in the media for the last few years has affected the hosting of our tournaments," the statement said.

"We have struggled to get stadiums to host the tournaments. When we got a stadium, unrealistic barriers were put in the way so that the event was not held."

The association said for these reasons, they were unable to host their National Classic in July and have cancelled their Summer Slam, which was planned for December.

"The actions of a few teenagers in the community are being unfairly used to stereotype the vast majority that are doing the right thing," the statement continued.

A spokesperson for Basketball Victoria confirmed tight restrictions -- which are "scarcely demanded" for other basketball tournaments-- were placed on the Summer Slam.

READ MORE: PM Renews 'African Gangs' Line But Forgets To Tell One Minister

The restrictions included, but are not limited to, financing bus-in, bus-out transportation for participants, maintaining restricted day-time hours and only have a half-day grand final, and plans to avoid build-up of crowd numbers on site.

The SSANBA would also have to notify all surrounding residents and tenants of the reserve prior to the tournament.

"Basketball Victoria worked diligently with SSANBA and other stakeholders to secure an appropriate location and venue to host the 2018 Summer Slam," the statement said.

"Our staff worked with various councils and authorities to ensure SSANBA, its players, coaches and the entirety of the basketball community would have an opportunity to participate in the tournament. This unfortunately was unable to come to fruition due to the severity of external restrictions placed on this event."

Karen Pearce, General Manager of Strategy and Inclusion at Basketball Victoria, also confirmed a venue had been secured.

“I think there were a few stipulations that were put in place by local councils – that we had to do and would have got done – but I think, in the end, it was just going to be a little too hard," Pearce told 3AW.

Politicians and media outlets have frequently discussed  'African youth gangs'  in Melbourne,  particularly in the lead up to last weekend's Victorian election.

READ MORE: African Youths Threw Rocks And Got Compared To The Gaza Strip

In January, Home Affairs Minster Peter Dutton made the claim Victorians are "scared to go out to restaurants" because of "African gang violence". Six months later, then- Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull followed suit.

"At some point you have to be fair dinkum and you have to acknowledge that there is a concern, people are concerned about it," Turnbull said of the so-called "gang issue".

But in July, Victoria Police released a statement highlighting the fact "people from African background only represent a small portion of offenders" in the community.

Victoria Police explained the groups committing violent offences were not what they would traditionally consider gangs, but rather groups of young people coming together, sometimes for one night, to commit offences.

The SSANBA said their tournaments are a huge part of the solution towards existing youth problems, and that it was counterproductive not to have them.

"The tournaments are vital to these young people because they give them something to look forward to. That keeps them keen on their weekly team training sessions in their states," the association said.

Duane Jordan, Director of Coaching at Manly Warringah Basketball Assocation, said it was upsetting the tournament could not take place.

"Basketball provides a safe haven for young people, a place to go play and inspire them to be more," he told 10 daily.

"In recent years Australians from diverse backgrounds like Ben Simmons, Joe Ingles, Patty Mills and Thon Maker -- the latter being of Sudanese heritage -- have found their NBA dreams come true, inspiring the next generation to be more than just a local player. Basketball is part of the solution, not the problem."

Basketball Victoria said it will continue to work the with SSANBA.

Featured image: SSANBA Instagram

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