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Zaire Needs Money More Than Points

July 25, 1996

ATLANTA (AP) _ You might think a coach, after losing by 60, would have more than enough to worry about over what just happened on the court.

Not Mongamaluku Mozingo. The coach of the Zaire women’s team is concerned about whether Zaire will ever compete among the world’s elite programs.

``We have the physical potential. We need the financial potential. We need financial help,″ Mozingo said Thursday after a 107-47 loss to the United States.

``Our players can’t train the way others do. Your team was training for the last four years. We were training for the last two months.″

Mozingo painted a bleak picture of basketball in Zaire: No indoor courts, all games played on asphalt courts.

``The courts are all at the schools,″ he said. ``They are in the sun and it gets so hot. Still, our children love to play the game.″

One who learned the game very well there is Dikembe Mutombo, a recent free-agent signee with the Atlanta Hawks. Mutombo has done more than his share to help the women’s team, which is making its first Olympic appearance.

``Mutombo provided us with our equipment and our uniforms,″ Mozingo said. ``He even proposed to pay our airfare to get here. Mutombo even requested the help of the government so we could come to the United States early and train but this help does not hinge on Mutombo. The Zaire government did not do those things.″

Mutombo has offered his moral support as well. He has been at each of Zaire’s three losses, exhorting the team as its biggest fan.

``I wish you could all come to Zaire with me to see what it is like,″ Mutombo said.

Mozingo said money is what’s needed.

``A new ball costs $100. That’s two months’ pay to someone in Zaire,″ he said. ``So 20 people have to share one ball. We need balls for young people to train them.″

As much as Mozingo pleaded his case for financial help for his program, he wouldn’t get down on his team even after the thrashing from the U.S. team.

``For our first time in the Olympics I think we are playing pretty well,″ he said. ``Their victory was totally overwhelming but our players played rather well.″

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