15 November 2010

NIGERIA : We Have Great Plan For Zone 3

Muktar A. Khaleh is the President of FIBA-Africa Zone-3. Malone, as he is popularly called, is also the first Vice President of Nigeria Basketball Federation, NBBF. He spoke with WALE JOSEPH about the just concluded FIBA-Africa Zone 3 Club Women Champions’ Cup qualifiers.

The FIBA-Africa Zone 3 Club Women Champions’ Cup qualifiers have just ended, what is your impression about the qualifiers?
Kano State has proven they are a good host, they have made their country (Nigeria) proud. We are determined to succeed in zone 3. We played only two games, the first game on Friday and the other one yesterday, with First Bank Basketball club winning both games against Sunshine Angels of Akure. They will, alongside CAS 2 Basketball club that also won both games in Cote d’Ivoire against ABC Basketball club, will represent the zone in the forthcoming FIBA-Africa Champions club championship for women.

Why was it that only two teams competed in Kano State?
We could not find a sponsor for the qualifiers in time and five clubs had registered for the zonal elimination. There were three from Nigeria and two from Cote d’Ivoire, but none of them was ready to sponsor the qualifiers. We got a letter from FIBA-Africa which stated that if we did not hold the qualifiers, the zone will not be represented in the finals of the Women’s Club this year. Don’t forget that First Bank Basketball club of Lagos are the defending champions, which means they would not be able to defend their title. Therefore, we decided to go all out to look for sponsorship from individuals and corporate organisations. Luckily for us, some individuals and First Bank PLC came to our rescue. Knowing that the finals of the main FIB-Africa Championship will kick off on 19 of this month in Tunisia, there was no time for us to bring all the teams to one venue for the qualifiers due to logistics.
If we decided to stage the qualifiers in Cote d’Ivoire, Nigerian clubs will have to go there, come back to the country after the qualifiers, before going to Tunisia again for the main championship.
To avoid that we decided, with the backing of FIBA-Africa, to host the qualifiers in both countries for the clubs in each country to slug it out and come out with one team each. Everything was done according to the rules and regulations of FIBA. One of the clubs in Nigeria, First Deepwater Basketball Club, who are the Nigerian league champions had to withdraw at the last minute due to some unforeseen circumstances and short notice for the qualifiers.

Is it true that the loser in Kano will get a wild card ?
There is only one wild card and we have been lobbying FIBA-Africa for it. They have promised to give it to us but I don’t know whether Ivorian teams are also interested. I just had a meeting with the two teams from Nigeria and they have given their words that if they are given the chance, they will participate. If you recall, First Bank got a wild card last year and they were the eventual winner of the tournament. We are going to push harder for a Nigerian team to get it. I am not promising them, but I have been on FIBA-Africa’s neck to give us the nod.

Did First Bank PLC sponsor the qualifiers?
First Bank PLC told us that they don’t want to be regarded as the sponsor, but were only assisting us. Oba Ikhide, the chairman of the First Bank team, told us that it’s their company’s corporate social responsibility. We are very grateful to the bank and other individuals that assisted us. But for their support, the zone would have lost out. There wouldn’t have been an opportunity for them to participate in the main finals. This would have affected their chances of playing among the best clubs in the continent.

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