09 October 2012

CAMEROON : Perrin, Bayang and Cameroon head to Abidjan 2013 with an eye on Spain

SHEFFIELD (Júlio Chitunda’s African Message) - With less than a year to go before the 2013 edition of Afrobasket, 12 of the the 16 teams that will compete in Abidjan, Ivory Coast are known as three more teams secured places last week in Bangui, Central African Republic with, notably, Cameroon confirming their regular status.
Cameroon have qualified for the last three Afrobaskets dating back to 2007, when they ended a 15-year absence from Africa’s main men's national team competition. Nowadays, they are a force among the African continent's powerhouses and therefore are aiming high.
In last week's four-team Africa zone IV qualifying tournament in Bangui, the Cameroonians secured their fourth consecutive participation to Afrobasket despite playing without many professional players, including their charismatic head coach Lazare Adingono who is now in charge of Angolan professional team Petro de Luanda.
Even though key players such as Parfait Bitee missed the qualifier, some home-based players have impressed showing the desire to make it into the final squad that is likely to contend for the 2013 Afrobasket podium, and possibly make it to the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup.
At least this is Cameroon’s new appointed coach’s ambition.
When Frenchman Michel Perrin signed on for Cameroon in July and led the team through a training camp in China, he had a clear goal in mind: to make in to the Spain’s showcase in two years' time.
Whether he will be kept in charge is something he still does not know, but that he really wanted to.
Cameroon along with Central Africa Republic (CAR) and Republic of Congo joined the other nine teams that are already qualified for next year’s Afrobasket. DR Congo finished fourth, missing out on the qualification.
Cameroonian Christian Bayang, one of the few professionals in the team, was the tournament's top scorer.
This qualification represents Congo’s second appearance at an Afrobasket since 1985, while CAR extended their long streak of regular participations in the continental championship, a run which dates back to 1989.
Nevertheless, Perrin can’t be blamed for being ambitious.
Last year he helped Cameroon's women’s team qualify to the 2011 Afrobasket for Women. However, because of contract issues with a Geneva club, he was unable to lead the team in the tournament held in Mali.
He agreed terms with Mali's women’s team and led them at the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament for Women (OQTW) which took place in Ankara, Turkey this past summer.
When in July I asked Perrin in Ankara whether he was continuing in charge of Mali, he said that he was not sure if “the working conditions” would not change. Now he says he is waiting to hear from Mali's Basketball Federation which will meet in late October to decide new strategies.
His answer suggested he was still in charge of Mali.
Yes, he said, explaining that “We are talking about men and women basketball. Both calendars do not overlap each other. It is quite possible to carry one working with Cameron men’s team and Mali’s women. There is no problem, at all.”
With that explanation in mind, it means Perrin may well compete at the 2013 Afrobasket Women, which will be held in Mozambique, should he be kept at the helm of Mali.
It's not known yet if he will have agenda troubles, but his late arrival in Bangui last week leaves some doubts.
Although he agreed terms with Cameroon in July, he only joined his team two days after the competition had begun, missing the two first games for what he described as “administrative reasons”.
At the time, his assistant managed a win over Republic of Congo and a loss to the host nation CAR.
One thing is certain - Perrin seems to know the African basketball reality as he managed CAR at the 2007 and 2009 Afrobasket.
I asked him to describe his Cameroon team and his future with the team.
“This is a good team, although there are a lot of professional players missing, but so far, the locals are responding very well," he said.
“I don’t know what the situation between coach [Lazare] Adingono and the federation is.
“I know that he did a very good job in the past, but he is now committed to his club in Angola [Petro de Luanda].”
Other teams qualified to the 16-team 2013 Afrobasket include host Ivory Coast, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Senegal, Cape Verde, Nigeria, Burkina Faso and Angola.
Júlio Chitunda

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