Basketball Africa League 2023: President Calls to End Migration of African Talent
In 2019, in a joint effort between the National Basketball Association (NBA) and International Basketball Federation (FIBA), the Basketball Africa League (BAL) was founded to replace the Africa Basketball League as the continent's premier men's basketball league. The inaugural season of the annual competition took place in May 2021.
Amadou Gallo Fall, President of the Basketball Africa League (BAL), said on the eve of the BAL 2023 championship, that the new basketball league's long-term goal is to stop the migration
of African talent and encourage international basketball players to play in the African league.
"Africa needs to make sure that we don't only export talent, but we should also build valid value around our talent," said the Senegalese, who managed NBA side, the Dallas Mavericks, for eight years. "It's just a question of bringing the expertise and creating the environment."
Fall, one of the founders of the league, stressed that the will of his BAL administration is focused on laying foundations that will lead to “long-term sustainability”.
"That is how to make the game accessible, for you to have more young boys and girls who will be bouncing the ball, getting interested in playing basketball," he insisted. "The talent is here in Africa.''
At present, under BAL rules, participating teams are allowed to have a maximum of two non-African players in the tournament. Notably, the majority of international players taking part in BAL 2023 are United States nationals. Commenting on this fact, Fall said it’s a step in the right direction toward popularizing
"US basketball players have always been in demand everywhere around the world. We want high-quality players to want to come and play in our leagues," he explained. "Players wouldn't have considered Africa in the past because of economic and other factors. I think it's a great sign that they actually want to come and play."
Basketball fans across the African continent are awaiting the Saturday kick-off of the third season of the new BAL pan-continent club championship, which will feature 12 African clubs battling it out for the 2023 trophy.
The inaugural season of the competition, which replaced the Africa Basketball League as the continent's top-tier league, was originally scheduled to take place in 2019 in Rwanda’s capital of Kigali, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the tournament was postponed to May 2021, with Egypt's Zamalek emerging the winners. Tunisia's Union Sportive Monastirienne (US Monastir) won the second season which was also held in Rwanda.
Fall told the media that the previous two seasons of the African competition had made a great impression on the basketball culture in the continent.
"Teams in general are working hard to get organized. To position themselves to have a chance to win their local championship and qualify for the BAL," Fall said. "We believe in basketball in Africa."
BAL 2023 will see the 12 participant clubs divided into two regional conferences, competing to qualify for May's play-offs in the Rwandan capital, Kigali. The top four teams from each conference will advance
to the quarter-finals of the play-offs, with the final match set to take place on 27 May.
The first conference, nicknamed the Sahara Conference, will tip off in the Senegalese capital of Dakar on 11 March and will continue for 10 days. It will feature ABC Fighters (Ivory Coast), AS Douanes (Senegal), Kwara Falcons (Nigeria), REG (Rwanda), Stade Malien (Mali), and the champion titleholder US Monastir of Tunisia.
The second conference, dubbed the Nile Conference (26 April to 6 May), includes Al Ahly (Egypt), Cape Town Tigers (South Africa), City Oilers (Uganda), CFV Beira (Mozambique), SLAC (Guinea), and the last year's runner-up Petro de Luanda of Angola.
The opening match of the Sahara Conference sees Senegal's AS Douanes facing debutants Ivory Coast’s ABC Fighters on Saturday (16:00 GMT).
"We're feeling very confident, knowing that we've been at this level before, and we're really excited to be playing in the first game of the tournament," the Fighters' coach, Liz Mills, who has been involved in men's basketball in Africa for more than 10 years, told the media. "Over the past two decades we have competed in the Africa Champions Cup, which was a competition before the NBA and FIBA merged into the Basketball African League, as well as imports that bring a vast wealth of experience."
Although the coach admits that there may be some "upsets" and "surprises", she believes that her club is "definitely one of the teams that could win the title
South Africa's BAL 2023 representatives, Cape Town Tigers, who won the South African National Championship twice since the club's foundation in 2019, is making its debut appearance at the pan-African competition.
"We're much improved since then. We've had tons of friendly games to prove that, with Petro de Luanda, with the NBA Academy, other teams from Mozambique," said the Tigers' head coach Raphael Edwards. "We're getting closer to playing a great brand of basketball."
The BAL was founded in 2019 as a replacement of the FIBA Africa Basketball League, formerly named the FIBA Africa Clubs Champions Cup, which was the continent’s highest tier men's professional basketball competition for clubs since its establishment in 1971.