Author Topic: § African Tournaments, News, Stories & Events • Competencias, Noticias, Historias & Eventos del Baloncesto Africano  (Read 144306 times)


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African Basketball News &  Events • Noticias & Eventos del Baloncesto Africano

Yes, Africa can !

Last week's FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament for Men (OQTM) should be celebrated as a new chapter in the basketball history thanks to the performances of two African teams, especially with Nigeria qualifying for the Olympic Games.

The D’Tigers, as Nigeria national team are commonly known, will play their first Olympic tournament, after winning three of their five games played over the course of six days.

On Sunday, the last day of the OQTM, they beat Dominican Republic 88-73 to claim the last berth for the London Games.

This is a success that few predicted but the Nigerian players always believed.

Now they join 2011 Afrobasket champions Tunisia at the Olympics as Africa representatives.

The last time the African continent had two teams at an Olympic tournament was back in 1988, at the Seoul Games, when the Central African Republic and Egypt were the African flag bearers.

The 2011 Afrobasket bronze medallist Nigeria not only successfully made it to London, but convincingly denied the European dominance with two remarkable wins over Lithuania and Greece.

Additionally, Angola’s win over The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (MKD) and a reasonable showdown against Russia should not be overlooked.

The Russians, though, was the African teams’ black sheep with two wins over both Angola and Nigeria.

Unlike many predictions, these two African teams qualified for the Quarter-Finals, after finishing second in Groups B and D respectively of the OQTM.

They combined for four victories in seven games, drastically improving the African participation from what it had been at the 2008 OQTM when it ended winless.

These two African teams, and especially Nigeria left a clear message: Yes, Africa can.

More than achieving the highest moment of African basketball, the Nigeria national team confirmed to the world stage the so-often claimed basketball talented nation accolade.

Nigeria is drawn in Group A of the 12-team Olympic tournament along with the USA, Argentina, Tunisia, France and Lithuania.

Nigeria’s performance at the OQT translates into a serious statement of a team that was not only satisfied in participating and learning from a world stage tournament.

Instead, they showed that they can compete, win and be dominant.

Of course this is an improved team compared to the one that played at last year’s Afrobasket.

With the likes of brothers Al-Farouq and Alade Aminu, Ade Daganduro, Tony Skinn, Ike Diogu, Derrick Obasohan and Co, this Nigeria team had no other option but to do well.

Nigeria now enjoys a positive record against European nations.

From defeats to France and Germany in 2006, they now count three wins - including last week's triumphs over Lithuania and Greece - and the 2006 FIBA World championship 82-75 win over Serbia and Montenegro.

Coach Ayodele Bakare successfully added a lot of quality into the squad.

Attracting these players to join the national team was the first hurdle Bakare successfully cleared.

I am sure that Bakare was extremely persuasive, something that does not surprise me. After various conversations with him, I was entirely convinced that this team was going to be successful sooner or later.

“That should be a good surprise, don’t you think?” he said to me when I asked him, early this year before the OQTM draw was announced, whether his team was able to beat the European opposition and make it to London.

Then he gave his predictions of the three teams to qualify to the Olympic: “Lithuania, Greece and Nigeria, for sure,” he said at the time.

He failed on his prediction of Greece, a team that he helped to eliminate.

His confidence started since the Nigeria Basketball Federation (NBBF) drew up their OQTM preparation programme.

In the document that I accessed they called it ROAD MAP TO 2012 OLYMPIC BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT.

That document clearly spelled out Nigeria's Olympic intentions.

One paragraph, for instance, says: “It is our firm belief that with the abundance of talented players which Nigeria will have available at that time, combined with adequate preparation and training, plus exposure of the team to high level friendly games we will do the country proud at the Olympics.”

Had Nigeria failed to qualify to the Olympics, the NBBF's credibility would have had to be put at stake. Now, perhaps it is time to break up with the past and turn the federation into an innovative institution.

This OQT saw African teams produce their best performances in global tournaments and proved some stereotypes wrong.

Beside the athleticism, both Angola and Nigeria played smartly with a lot of ferocity and proved that they can compete against the top national teams.

In fact, this OQTM transformed African basketball’s image.

Here are some quotes of African teams’ opponents, before and after the tournament.

MKD forward Vlado Ilievski said before the tournament: “They run, they are athletic, but I don’t think they have the technical skills the European teams have.”

His teammate Pero Antic, had a complete different view after a 88-84 loss to Angola: “They are a good team and they deserved to win,” he said.

MKD head coach Marjan Lazovski said after the OQTM draw was announced: “We have a good chance for the Olympics because we have opponents that we can beat.

“We know what we need to worry about New Zealand...Angola and Korea were the other teams we wished for before the draw.”

MKD were knocked out in the Quarter-Finals by the Dominican Republic.

Russia’s influential player Andrei Kirilenko revealed his thoughts on Nigeria, after a 85-77 Semi-Final win: “Give credit to Nigeria as they fight till the end [of the game]. They are a very good team.”

What African teams have shown is that there isn't one African basketball playing style. Instead there are different ways to interprate games and different ways to execute a plan. For instance, it is pointless trying to associate the Tunisian playing style with that of Chad or Togo.

Three wins and two losses - both to Russia - should be encouraging rather than disappointing.

Despite some relative success by Angola in the past, this year’s OQT was probably the best African appearance on a global stage.

The Greek affair

Nigeria out-rebounded Greece in the 80-79 Quarter-Final win, but Greece coach Ilias Zouros emphasised the referee’s job.

Probably it was a shocking reality for Greece who, in the past 20 years, enjoyed an unbeaten record over African teams in competitive tournaments.

A week before the OQT, Greece had beaten Nigeria (88-76) in a warm-up tournament, in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Greece’s most recent win over an African team happened at the 2010 FIBA World Championship after trouncing Ivory Coast 97-60.
Before that game, the Greeks had destroyed Angola (102-61) at the 2008 Olympics. Four years earlier, as hosts of the 2004 Olympic Games, they also had beaten Angola (88-56).

Their African demolition dates back to the 1994 FIBA World Championship and a 69-53 win over Egypt. Four years later, as hosts of the FIBA World Championship, they beat Senegal (68-57).

However on July 6, they misfired as Nigeria came bigger and better.

Surely Greece, Lithuania and MKD may have a different perspective on the African teams.

For the Angolans, who will miss out on their first Olympics since 1992, the question is: Will they be able to come back stronger after missing out on the continent gold medal?

Well, past experience shows that after Angola finished third at the 1997 Afrobasket, and missed out the 1998 world championship, they came better than never and won six consecutive African titles (1999, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2009).

More than being successful with the qualification to the Olympic Games, Nigerians proved how relevant and crucial the African Diaspora players are to develop the continent’s game.

These two African nations fought hard to confirm that they can do well. It is a remarkable achievement.

Julio Chitunda from FIBA

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African Basketball News &  Events • Noticias & Eventos del Baloncesto Africano

A new chapter for Ivory Coast

Nothing could be more indicative of Ivory Coast’s desire to win the 2013 Afrobasket title than them starting their preparation at the current African champions' home.

The Elephants, as they are known, began their four-week training camp in Tunisia as they take aim at next year's Afrobasket which will be held in the Ivorian capital Abidjan. They will later travel to France for the remainder of their preparations.

In Tunisia, the Ivory Coast will play a three-day tournament (23-25 June), taking on Tunisia, Senegal and Belgium.

In his first contact with the team, newly-appointed head coach Frenchman Christophe Denis – who spent his childhood in Abidjan – chose 18 players to join the national team.

Apparently Ivory Coast is seeking to break up with the recent past and return to the glory days of the 1980s, and they see hosting next year’s Afrobasket as a new chapter in their basketball history.

The 1985 title they won as hosts - following a 84-73 defeat of Angola in the Final - is still very clear in the memory of Ivorians.

Bringing back those days has become their main goal.  

One thing that amazes me is the Ivorian desire to do well in August 2013. It is still a long way to go, but so far, everything is going as planned, since Denis’ appointment early this year.

For instance, the Ivoirians are implementing a spirit of togetherness in the team. One of the main points in their preparation programme will be a focus on motivating their players to do well when the tournament tips off.  

Contrary to the way things were done in the past, they are summoning the best Ivorian players based at home and all over the world to get together. They want to know each other as well as the new coach and get known to the general Ivorian public, rather than just having a two-week training camp and playing an international tournament as used to be done previously.

The Ivorians are dreaming big and no one should blame them for it. They hope their more experienced and talented players will deliver success at home.

It is too obvious that the Ivorian Basketball Federation don’t want to be blamed for any hypothetical failure. All they are seeking is to be successful at home after surrendering the organisation of the 2011 Afrobasket due to political turmoil. Madagascar stepped in and hosted the tournament.

When the past come to mind

One of the biggest troubles for some African national teams in recent years has been the inability to bring to the national team their talented players performing in top leagues around the world. Ivory Coast is no different.

Perhaps this has been one of the major differences between 10-time African champions Angola and the most recent champions Tunisia, whose majority of players are either home based or settled in neighbouring countries, and other national teams.

In order to make sure of their players' availability, the Ivorians are shaping the national teams a year before they host Africa's most competitive national team tournament.

Ivory Coast's preparations will not end in July though. They will gather again during the Christmas time for a couple of days of preparation in Abidjan.

With all resources in place, finishing out of the podium will be regarded as failure. Another aim for Denis is to qualify the team to the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup to be staged in Spain.

On June 29, some France-born Ivorian internationals will have the opportunity to play against the French national team in Toulouse in what is seen as the highlight of the Elephants' preparations.

Big heart needed

I asked Boubakari Touré, the federation chairman, to give his thoughts of the events. He said: “We want our players to engage with the national team.”

“We want our players to arrange their own agenda in time to represent the country.”

Europe-based players Mouloukou Diabate, Mohamed Kone, Pape Philippe-Amagou, are surely in Denis’ plan to attack African crown.

“One needs a big heart and sacrifice in order to win games, and this is what we will be working on,” Denis told me in April, when I asked him how to turn the Ivory Coast national team into a wining team.  

However if they want to win the championship, they will have to do more than just hosting the tournament. They will have to overcome unstoppable Tunisia.

The African champions last lost a game in African competitions on 14 August 2009, a 79-69 defeat to Angola in Tripoli, Libya.

Since then, they have found the formula to dominate Africa and don’t seem to be interested to give in the continent crown any time soon.

Then there is Angola - Africa's most successful national team in the past 23 years – who are hurting after a 67-56 loss to Tunisia in the Final of last year’s Afrobasket.

The Ivorian task to make their countrymen and women proud will involve doing better than two talented teams, such as Senegal and Nigeria before trying to spoil promising Egypt.

The Ivorian task does not seem to be an easy one and getting their warriors a year before the big moment is surely the right thing to do.

Meanwhile, for those interested to find out more about Denis’ programming here is a list of 18 players invited to join the national team: Yotio Lichel, N'diaye Ismael, Dja konan Patrick, Jean-Baptiste Amenou, Willy Kouassi, Diabaté Souleymane, Pape Philippe Amagou , Cissé Ibrahim, Stéphane Konaté, Ouattara Alpha Yaya, Mohamed Koné, Kéita Ben Ali, Coulibaly Assane, Gnagbo Patrick, Ehui Jean Michel, Wilfried Aka, Hervé Lamizana and Adjehi Baru.

Julio Chitunda from FIBA

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Guimarães' Angolan national team challenge

José Carlos Guimarães, the newly-appointed head coach of Angola's Men's National Team, deserves praises for accepting his new role as he is the fifth man to lead the former African champions in just six years.

Guimarães showed boldness by accepting the post, even though, as a former international he had never hidden the desire of coaching his country national team.

In the last six years, Angola have been coached by Alberto Carvalho, Luís Magalhães, Michel Gomez and Jaime Covilhã.

Guimarães is the third national team coach in a year.

Realistically speaking, Angola is not experiencing the best time in its basketball history, and the future seems quite dubious.

In April last year, the Angolan Basketball Federation (FAB) appointed Frenchman Gomez with the intention of keeping him in the job for at least a year and half, had he qualified the team to the 2012 Olympics Games.

Instead, Gomez was sacked midway through the 2011 Afrobasket in Madagascar last summer. His assistant, Jaime Covilhã, took over at the Quarter-Final stages of the tournament and led the team all the way to the Final, where they lost 67-56 to Tunisia and, consequently, missed out on direct qualification to the London Games.

What followed next was what Angolans were not accustomed to: they blamed FAB for the national team failure to win their 11th title. Meanwhile, it sounded surprising for some African countries, who always praised FAB’s planning and organisation.

Covilhã, who had a fantastic introduction as the national team head coach in Madagascar after a thrilling 84-83 Quarter-Final victory over Cameroon, said at the time that his players refused to lose that epic game despite trailing most of contest, and that in his opinion they were the best players in the world.

They were psychologically strong, he said at the time.

Surprisingly when I asked him, three months later (in November of last year) whether he was going to keep the job, he immediately responded that he was not, and he didn’t specify.

Apparently FAB may have not offered him what he wanted.

At the time I thought Covilhã was the right man for the job.

However, Guimarães was confirmed on 19 May in a crucial moment of Angolan basketball and he deserves tribute for it.

To assist him, Guimarães chose Angolan Emanuel Trovoada, a former Cape Verde national team head coach.

The most intriguingly question is how Angolan men will perform at the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT), an event they have never played.

Now, Guimarães, one of Angola's best players in the late 1980s and 1990s, is handed the tough challenge to revert what seems a difficult moment of Angolan basketball history.

The National League

Just to put things in context, let’s look at how things are running in domestic competitions.

Primeiro D’Agosto, the Angolan men's national team’s main provider, last won the national league two years ago, and re-signed Portuguese Mario Palma - the most successful coach with the national team - and added international 38-year-old Gerson Monteiro to the roster.

With Palma, D’Agosto lost the African Club Championship to Tunisian club Etoile du Sahel.

Last week, before Guimarães’ appointment, D’Agosto lost the national league to Recreativo do Libolo.

And D’Agosto’s national team players under-performed throughout the second phase of the national league.

Preliminary squad

Guimarães has announced his preliminary squad and that includes five Primeiro D’Agosto players, and two from the new champions Libolo, including Olimpio Cipriano and Luis Costa, two internationals who missed last year’s Afrobasket.

In my view, Guimarães’s main priority for now should not be New Zealand nor FYROM, Angolan’s opponents in the first stage of the OQT. Instead he should focus on his new players.

Last year, when I asked Covilhã what profile the national team coach should have, he said whoever was appointed had to be able to motivate, communicate and understand his players.

That answer made me wonder if perhaps a psychologist may also be needed to join Guimarães' coaching staff.

It is early days to assess Guimarães role, even though he has had reasonably success with a minor club, Sporting de Cabinda, and a top-four Angola side, Inter Clube de Luanda.

The coach

As a player Guimarães, was a small forward who represented his country and shone for over a decade, especially at the 1992 Olympics.

He also served as assistant coach at the 2006 FIBA World Championship.

Something he should not be accused of is a lack of international experience.

Hopefully I may be able to catch up with Guimarães in the next few days, and one of my questions will be whether he took over at the right time.

Knowing his public speeches and thinking of a conversation we had five years ago, in which he seemed a very confident man, he probably will answer affirmatively.

Julio Chitunda from FIBA

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Angola and Botswana battle for U18 African Championships places

By the end of this week, either Angola or Botswana's national teams will secure places for this summer's U18 African Championships for Men and Women, as the regional qualification tournament is underway in the Mozambican capital of Maputo.

The four national teams, the only contenders, are taking part in the African qualification zone VI tournament that started Sunday.

The men’s U18 event will take place in August in Mozambique, while the host country and dates for the women’s are still to be determined.

Whatever the results between Angola and Botswana, in both categories, only one national team will qualify to either African U18 tournament.

These national teams have not beaten their opponents on the floor. In fact, they did what others did not.

They showed up for the African qualification zone VI tournament in Maputo, while seven other national teams (Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, and South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe) withdrew.

This story sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Unfortunately this scenario is becoming regular in African basketball.

Last month, only two out of eight U18 national teams for men and women took part in the African qualification zone IV tournament in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

This time, although Mozambique is taking part in the tournament, only Angola and Botswana are competing to qualify.

The host nation is taking the tournament as a preparation as they are already qualified for both U18 African Championships.

Mozambique's men and women both finished third at the 2010 U18 African Championships, which gave them direct qualification for this year’s event.

Either Botswana or Angola will join women’s defending champions Egypt, runners-up Nigeria, bronze medallists Mozambique, fourth-place Mali and zone IV winner Democratic Republic of Congo in the field for the U18 African Championship for Women.

Meanwhile, either Botswana or Angola's men's side will join the defending champions from Egypt, runners-up Tunisia, bronze medallists Mozambique and zone IV winner Democratic Republic of Congo in the men's event.

Botswana and Angola's national teams enjoy different continental status in most basketball categories.

While Angola are the highest-placed African men’s national team in the FIBA Ranking, Botswana struggles to join the continent elite.

Despite the differences, these two countries have in common the desire to give young players a chance to develop their basketball skills and attending this African qualification tournament shows it well.

However, as some African countries seem to be slowing their engagement to basketball, Mozambique, who are 48th in FIBA's Combined Ranking, cannot stop committing to the game.

Their women's national team finished fifth at last year’s Afrobasket, but they accepted to represent Africa at the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) for Women, replacing bronze medallists Senegal. Fourth-placed Nigeria also turned down the chance of playing for a chance to qualify for the London Olympics.

Fascinated by basketball or not, Mozambique will host this year's U18 African Championship for Men.

All these commitments raised my curiosity, and I decided to find out more.

Francisco Mabjaia, chairman of Mozambique's Basketball Federation, told me why his country does what some African nations turn down.

“The reason we are widely committed to basketball is because Mozambicans love basketball and we can not let our countrymen and women down,” he said.

“Basketball is the second most popular sport in our country, after football."

With all this passion for basketball, I wonder whether this is a message to encourage neighbouring countries to follow in Mozambique’s footsteps.

The reality though is that Mozambique just wants to develop its basketball players’ potential as much as possible.

The country is taking part in the tournament to give its national teams’ players competitiveness and experience.

“Each country has its own reasons, and we are not making judgements on it,” Mabjaia explained.

Hosting a tournament is a challenging task, but Mabjaia refused to show disappointment with the withdrawal of other national teams as they notified them beforehand.

“We have not arranged any logistics or accommodations for them. So there is no financial loss in this regard," he pointed out.

“Quite often we propose friendly tournaments to our neighbouring countries in order to boost our young players’ prospects, unfortunately it is often unsuccessful.

“We are committed to do anything to strength this African region’s potential.”

Until July most U18 African national teams for Men and Women are expected to compete for places at the 2012 U18 African Championship.

African Qualification zone is distributed according to regional location. There are still five other Africa Qualification zones to compete before the U18 Africa Championship in both categories later in the year.

Nevertheless, I am not sure how many national teams will show up to compete in upcoming events, which makes for a bleak scenario for African hopeful players.

Julio Chitunda from FIBA

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Egyptian Basketball - Past, Present and Future

By the time the 2013 AfroBasket starts in Ivory Coast, it will have been 10 years since Egypt last won a medal at senior level of the African Championship for Men. However, their junior teams are giving the country hope of bringing that drought to an end.

The Pharaohs last won a bronze at the 2003 AfroBasket as host nation.

Since then, Egypt has achieved no better result than a fourth-place finish at the 2007 AfroBasket held in Angola.

They came in 10th in neighbouring Libya at the 2009 AfroBasket, before plunging to 11th at last year’s continental championship in Madagascar, their lowest finish in the country's basketball history.

This may seem a dreadful prospect for the second most victorious country - after Angola - in the history of the FIBA Africa Championship, with five gold medals, five silver and six bronze.

Undoubtedly it is not the most recommended impression of a team with Egypt’s basketball legacy.

However, Egypt is experiencing two different phases in its basketball history.

While the men's senior national team keeps struggling, their youths can’t stop thriving.

Egypt’s future is rather optimistic, if we consider the recent achievements of the country’s juniors.

In recent years, Egypt has dominated African youth tournaments.

In 2008, they won the FIBA Africa U18 Africa championship for Men - as hosts - after a thrilling 85-84 victory over archrivals Angola in Alexandria.

Later this year, Egypt will travel to Mozambique as defending champions at the U18 AfroBasket.

In 2009, they won the FIBA Africa U16 Championship for Men in Mozambique, before successfully defending their title last year at home.

Egypt crushed their opponents with big winning margins, beating Tunisia 117-67 in the Championship Game.

The defending champions booked their place in the Final by destroying Angola 106-41 in the Semi-Final.

Prior to that result, Egypt had smashed Mozambique (108-54), Algeria (94-57), South Africa (101-57) and Congo (128-33).

Mali finished third while Angola finished fourth.

In the end, three Egyptian players - point guards Ehab Saleh, Omar Abdeen and power forward Wessam Melek - made it on the All-Tournament Team, with Algerian forward Ahmed Boutiba and Mozambican center Helton Ubisse completed the team.

Saleh was also named the tournament's MVP.

Egypt U16 men's national team head coach Rafik Youssef could not be more confident about his country's basketball future.

Earlier this month he gave me his impressions of Egyptian basketball.

“The senior national team is not doing as well as it used (to),” Youssef said.

“From my point of view the federation should be courageous to make changes.

“Keeping two or three senior players and give junior players a chance is the most appropriate decision they should make.

“With that change in mind, three years is time enough for Egypt to dominate basketball in Africa.

“After last year’s Africa championship we had a few weeks break, but we are working already for the (2012 FIBA U17) World Championship in Lithuania."

For now, Egyptian youths enjoy the rewards of becoming Africa's most regular representative on the world stage over the past decade.

Two years ago, they represented the continent at the inaugural FIBA U17 World Championship held in Hamburg, Germany.

In 2009 they represented Africa in New Zealand at the FIBA U19 World Championship and repeated that feat by qualifying to last summer’s event in Latvia.

Yet again, Egypt has qualified to this year’s 12-team FIBA U17 World Championship to be staged in Kaunas, Lithuania, from June 29 to July 8.

“We have a tough group, but we (can) only be satisfied if we make it to the next round," Youssef said.

“I think that three teams in our group will make it to Semi-Final of the World Championship."

Egypt will face Australia, China, Czech Republic, France and USA in Group A of the Preliminary Round.

The top four teams from each Preliminary Round group will advance to the Quarter-Finals.

With such international experience and the export to US colleges of talents like Assem Ahmed (Minnesota State University), Mostafa Abdel Latif (Sacred Heart University) and Omar Oraby (Rice University), I could not agree more with coach Youssef.

There is hope in the country of basketball lovers.

Egypt has hosted six African nations’ tournaments since 1962 and an endless amount of youth African tournaments.

Young Egyptians have now the task of restoring the country’s legacy.

If Egypt’s current position with the senior national team looks rather bleak, its future seems much more optimistic.

With a brilliant past, a doubtful present, Egypt has a bright future.

Julio Chitunda from FIBA

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