Basketball needs serious supervision

Basketball needs serious supervision

Promotion and development of basketball at the domestic level has been the most challenging assignment to the sport’s stakeholders considering that they have been encountering plenty of difficulties in securing funds to meet expenses of the programmes.

Despite facing financial crisis, domestic basketball stakeholders, led by the Tanzania Basketball Federation (TBF) have shown an encouraging determination to push for their sport’s prosperity, and the aspect of determination could be seen in TBF’s efforts
to organize various training programmes and competitions.

And, domestic basketball competitions, as a matter of fact, do not come much bigger than the national basketball tournament dubbed Taifa Cup, which has, for the past four to five years, been taking place in Dar es Salaam. Taifa Cup, which involves regional combined basketball outfits from across the country, offers yet another learning curve to TBF and the rest of domestic basketball stakeholders in terms of both event organization and team performance.

Domestic basketball stakeholders, first and foremost, have a duty to secure reliable sponsorship for the annual tournament with a view to realizing participation of all regional teams, a move that will effectively bolster the level of competitiveness. The absence of reliable sponsorship has greatly contributed to the decline of the level of competitiveness in the event brought about by presence of few teams, a situation that leads to poor turnout of fans in games.

TBF has, for the past few years, been opting to host the event in Dar es Salaam to probably counter massive organization costs, which could otherwise have been incurred had the body decided to organize the tournament elsewhere but the move has largely done little to lessen the setbacks to successful organization of the event.

The last year’s Taifa Cup offers a good example of challenges facing TBF and the rest of basketball stakeholders in both organization and performance of participating teams in the event given that there were numerous weaknesses that came up in the tournament to somewhat overshadow the expected successes.

Taifa Cup, for one, witnessed what was probably one of the most frustrating scenes in the history of basketball development in the country as the hosts’ three districts of Kinondoni, Ilala and Temeke, which were expected to feature in the tournament as independent regional combined teams, pulled out of the event citing failure by the sport’s governing body in the city, Basketball Dar es Salaam (BD) to give the teams sufficient allowance.

Although TBF, and BD, claimed that the failure to present sufficient allowance to the Dar es Salaam trio and the rest of the participating regional combined teams was caused by little cash that TBF received from sponsors, Kinondoni, Ilala and Temeke stood their ground on shunning the event. That definitely meant Dar es Salaam players that were still keen on competing in the event had to opt for featuring in other regional combined outfits so that they could realize their dreams.

Taifa Cup, eventually, remained as an event featuring teams from outside Dar es Salaam and, had it not been the desire to maintain the spirit of effective basketball promotion in the country, the rest of the teams could certainly have opted out as well taking into consideration the expenses incurred on transport and accommodation. The absence of Dar es Salaam outfits in the tournament meant the event was robbed of the expected enthusiasm and a high level of competitiveness, which had almost been a permanent feature in the tournament in the past.

A controversy that occurred in the men’s final at the Leaders Club venue, in which three outfits of Mwanza, Singida and Unguja entered the venue with all claiming the right to play the final, was a vivid example of TBF’s weakness when it came to decision making. It all started when Mwanza disqualified from the tournament, despite having cruised to the final, after the other competitors, Unguja, won the protest they filed against the Lake Zone outfit.

According to the protest, Mwanza had entered two more players in the 12-man list, which had previously already been submitted to TBF and that meant the Lake Zone side had contravened the tournament regulations. The players in question are Enock Charles and Ahmed Said, whose presence in the latter stages were deemed as a plan by Mwanza to illegally strengthen their squad and boost the chances to win the trophy, which had eluded them in recent years.

Mwanza had defeated Unguja 74-62 in the semi-final to qualify for the final and were expected to face Singida, who had grabbed a win over Lindi in another semifinal. Mwanza, however, strongly opposed the claims saying the two players were already in the list that was submitted to TBF shortly before the start of the tournament and, thus, the team felt TBF acted unfairly in the decision to disqualify the side.

And the Lake Zone side decided to defy the TBF order and entered the venue when Unguja, which had then been allowed to play the final in Mwanza’s place, was warming up on one side of the court ready to face Singida, which was also warming up on the other side of the court. With all three teams warming up on the court, a sense of confusion arose among the fans, before Mwanza, ultimately decided to leave the court on the request of some of the TBF officials and the final’s guest of honour, the Deputy Minister for Information, Youth, Culture and Sports, Fenella Mukangara.

Mwanza, who were seemingly closing in on the silverware based on unrivaled quality they had in their squad, were so frustrated by their disqualification that they went on record as threatening to boycott all events organized by TBF for what the team claimed as the federation’s weakness in decision making. A visibly frustrated Mwanza skipper, Kizito Bahati, said the region’s basketball stakeholders, led by the Mwanza Regional Basketball Association (MRBA), would rather be willing to chiefly focus on supervising various development programmes in their region, apart from strengthening the region’s competitions, than participating in the TBF-sanctioned events.

The statement definitely reflected the amount of frustrations the Mwanza squad had endured following its disqualification, as the team had met a host of difficulties in securing funds to travel to Dar es Salaam. In his clarification on the matter, Mziya told the ‘Daily News’ that according to the tournament’s regulations, only players that were registered by the teams should participate in the event, meaning no addition of players during the event was allowed. “Mwanza had previously entered nine players out of the required 12 players but the team then omitted the name of one of the players, Charles, after he sustained an injury in the opening match against Tanga,” he said.

“Mwanza, however, did not present any information on their decision to omit Charles’ name in the then 12-man list and, when the team entered the player’s name for the second time, the move was deemed as an illegal addition of a player to the required total number of players and Unguja, therefore, used Mwanza’s weakness to file the protest, which the Isles side won,” added Mziya. The Mwanza controversy, all in all, points to the need for TBF to set up clearly defined regulations for the tournament and stick to them with a view to avoid any possible ambiguity later on.

Despite the obvious setbacks that TBF encountered in both the Africa Zone Five Championship and the Taifa Cup, Mziya maintained that his federation did its best in accomplishing most of the programs it had lined up for the past season. And TBF, he said, did so with extremely little or no financial support, a situation that has unveiled a contrasting level of progress that basketball experiences in Tanzania in comparison to the sport’s progress in neighbouring countries.

“The government of our neighbouring country Rwanda, for instance, has invested substantially in basketball development, in which it has been hiring instructors from Canada and the USA to impart their expertise to the locals, among other programmes,
something that has hardly been done by our government,” said Mziya. Rwanda’s increasing dominance in basketball in the East Africa region, thus, is a good indication of tremendous success the country has attained in promotion of the sport at its backyard.

TBF now has the duty to win the trust of prospective sponsors and well wishers, who could, in turn, dish out funds for the federation’s programmes and that depends on the commitment of the TBF officials in accomplishing their objectives. Mziya was adamant that TBF did its best in carrying out several activities that were lined up in its sports calendar for the last season, despite lacking the much needed financial support.

The TBF boss revealed his body will continue striving to solicit funds for different development programmes, albeit the increasing difficulties in acquisition of reliable financial support that could help in realizing the plans. That, definitely, is the spirit that should never wane, if domestic basketball stakeholders wish to propel their beloved sport to success in the country.

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