My Experience At 2015 African Women’s Basketball Club Championship!
THIS should actually be my diary of events at the finals of the 2015 African Women’s basketball Club championship that took place in Luanda, Angola these past two very eventful weeks.
I led the delegation of the Elephant Girls, the female basketball team of First Bank Nig. Plc, the most successful female club in Nigeria’s basketball history, to the championship.
First Bank have probably made the biggest contribution to the promotion and development of basketball in Nigeria through their sustained investment in the club in almost 4 decades. No other club has done and achieved more for both club and country than the Elephant Girls, having national championships more than ten times and the African Club championship twice, the only Nigerian club to achieve these feats.
The Elephant Girls qualified for the final rounds this year by emerging runners-up to Dolphins Basketball Club in the domestic national female league, and winners of the Zone 3 championship (West Africa) that took place in Cotonou, Benin Republic, in November.
The Elephant Girls have succeeded mostly because the club produces the largest number of female players for
Nigeria’s national basketball teams through the years of the banks involvement with the game. This helps the players to grow in the game and exposes them to international college scouts from the United States and club-sides from
North Africa and Europe.
My past three years as consultant to the bank on all its sports properties that include basketball have been a great education for me.
For a person that has seen how things work in Track and
Field and, particularly, in football, I find the world of basketball administration in Africa (through FIBA, the organization that runs the continental game) still in the ‘dark ages’.
In my experience how FIBA and its African Club competition work make CAF (the organization that runs African football) look like superstars! FIBA does not seem to have a template that guides its operations in all facets of the game. Teams are always asking for direction on virtually as issues.
On the courts, the matches are played well, officiated well, covered well for television, and so on. But outside the courts, little seems to happen correctly.
For example, the host and dates of the finals are not decided until less than 4 weeks to the end of the championship.
Securing visas for participating teams from different countries are a challenge and, sometimes, a nightmare as was the case with First Bank this time around.
Issue of visas should be simplified for participating teams that have to go through stringent conditions because information on the host never comes early.
It should be a basic requirement for every interested host to secure assurance from their government that visas would be issued to all participants at the points of entry without the rigors of trying to get them in their various countries at the last minute.
As a result of the insistence by the Angolan embassy in
Abuja that some specific conditions be met only 7 players were able to secure their visas before the championship started. 4 more joined the team after the first match had been played, and the last player joined after the third round of matches!
Having said that, the championship went well. Angola and
Mozambique dominated as they have done through the decades because they run a very high standard of domestic basketball and manage to keep their best players in their country with the right incentives. In Angola, in particular, some of the best-paid athletes in the country are basketball players!
So, on arrival in Luanda everyone knew the Angolan clubs would be the teams to beat, the same two teams that won the previous two editions of the championship – Agosto and Inter Clube.
There was no ceremonial welcome at the Luanda airport for visiting teams. In fact there was nothing to indicate that the most prestigious Club championship of basketball was holding in the country’s capital.
Teams just quietly slipped into the country and found their way to the hotels allocated to them by the local organisers and FIBA.
The Nigerian teams as well as the clubs from Kenya, Uganda and Burundi were lodged a good one hour away from the venue of the matches, and that is with dispatch riders leading the buses provided through dense traffic most of the way to the Stadium complex where a magnificent new indoor sports hall had been added to the complex built to host the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations.
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