The 26th African Championships will be more than a continental tournament but an international affair, as players, coaches and referees from all around the globe will be competing in Madagascar for the African crown.
The globalization within the sport is more than visual as due to the possibility of “each nation to naturalize one player (which means basically, that a player received a passport from a country he is supposed to play for, although not having any family ties to) and as well as due to the usage of coaches with origins outside of Africa.
This is not new to the continent’s most important competition, as U.S. coaches and coaches from France used to guide African nations in the past years as well. But this year, the available coaching jobs shifted in terms of nationality towards another nation, which increased their interest and efforts on the continent regarding basketball within the last twelve months a lot. Paco Garcia (Central African Republic), Joseba Garcia (Mozambique), Angel Manzano (Madagascar), Nacho Lezkano (Ivory Coast) and French-Spaniard Jose Riuz (Mali) are all in charge of a nation competing in less than two weeks from now in Antananarivo.
France, who is traditionally strong on the continent due to its colonial past, provides equally five coaches if you count Ruiz in, with Alain Weisz (Senegal), Michel Gomez (Angola), Guy Arnaud (Togo) and Patrick Maucouvert (Chad) being the others.
Hassane Hachad (Morocco), Adel Tlatli (Tunisia), Flosh Ngwenya (South Africa) and the duo of Lazare Adingono and Etienne Obah (Cameroon) are the only African coaches (Egypt could also be coached by a local coach) in the mix. Veceslav Kavedzija (Rwanda) and John Lucas (Nigeria) are the “exots” nowadays, not coming from the three options mentioned above.
For most of the players, there won’t be any big change in their routine, as most are based in a pro league in Europe, with France being the market in which a high percentage of national-team players are competing in. It has to be seen, if the advantage of having a European-coach with a different philosophy will lead to success in the African championships, as the pressure is high on the appointed coaches and there have been already accusations by the Senegalese federation towards the French basketball federation as well as the negative influence of Angola’s coach Gomez, who allegedly used his contacts to the French federation to hinder the addition of Pape Badiane and Joseph Gomis to the Senegalese national-team.
Another difficulty and a new situation for most coaches is to live with the uncertainty to receive their promised payment and also to deal with the lack of money to prepare the team professionally for the tournament and also the involvement of too many officials in charge who all trying to implement their view and their strategy onto their court, trying to use the coach only as a middleman.
The upside for most coaches however, is to scout also talents while being into preparations in the country. Especially Spain used its extended role on the continent to scout for big men like Ilimane Diop, who are steadily lured over to play in the junior ranks and maybe for the national-team as well. Serge Ibaka, who became Spanish citizen recently, came to Spain via France but was discovered too late as he played for the Republic of Congo before.
This won’t happen nowadays anymore as the scouting advanced compared to the past and the new talent is being discovered early, sometimes also thank to a senior national-team coach these days…