01 November 2012

ALGERIA : A new era in Algeria

Algeria Basketball’s latest reshuffle indicates its determination to revamp their men´s national team, as they have missed out on qualification at three Afrobasket tournaments totalling seven years away from Africa biggest basketball showpiece.
Algeria last competed at the 2005 Afrobasket but have secured a place at next year’s tournament.
In my view, the reshuffle was in fact a little bit unusual as a former assistant coach took over and relegated his former head coach - who was not sacked - to an assistant position.
Algerian-born Faid Bilal replaced American Sean Wallen on the grounds of alleged language issues.
To me, the appointment of former Algeria international Bilal raised a question about how meticulous the decision to sign a head coach is, considering his/her pivotal position.
I am far from discrediting Bilal, but naming Wallen to the top position to then demote him must have been a really tough decision to take.
Although unusual, this was not an isolated case. It seems that, in some instances, sport authorities take a gamble and wait for positive results to happen, without accessing the teams’ reality.
I am in favour of signing a competent player/coach regardless of his/her nationality. However, signing a non-native-language speaker tactician on the grounds that players speak a “universal language,” is an even riskier decision. But history is full of examples of successful head coaches who relied on translators.
The late Sir Bobby Robson, an English coaching legend, had a successful career both in Portugal and Spain after relying on his multilingual translator José Mourinho.
Some more conservative British media barely accepted former England boss Italian Fabio Capelo’s level of English.
Sometimes having a non-speaker coach simply does not work out, and the “universal language concept” fails at a times.
I remember last year having asked Angolan Basketball Federation (FAB)´s chairman Gustavo Conceição about a possible appointment of a non-Portuguese speaking head coach to their men’s team.
Historically only Angolans and Portuguese nationals had coached their men’s team.
At the time, Conceição denied any pre-agreement with Frenchman Michel Gomez, even though French media reported otherwise.
“We have very experienced players who speak the basketball language,” Conceição told me. He went on saying that “Linguistically, our players will not be affected whatsoever if a foreigner coach is offered the job.”
Eventually, Gomez agreed terms with FAB, just to be sacked three months later, midway through of last year´s Afrobasket for alleged miscommunication with his players.
In Algeria, Bilal took over from Wallen for alleged miscommunications with his national team players.

Bilal led Algeria to a silver medal at the 2001 Afrobasket, held in neighbour Morocco, before he managed the country at the 2002 FIBA World Championship in Indianapolis.
This past June, Algeria secured a golden opportunity by qualifying to next year´s Afrobasket, after missing out on qualification on three consecutive tournaments (2007, 2009 and 2011).
Soon after Bilal was appointed he decided to make clear that things will be different as their “goal is to reach at least the second round of the competition, something which is not easy given that 95% of the players have not participated in the Basketball African Championship,” he said, although Wallen managed the team in recent tournaments.
Bilal has pointed out that a lack of competition and international tournaments for youth was the cause behind the stagnation of Algerian basketball. He now wants to keep the team that competed at the qualifier zone early this year in Algeria.
And his first impressions of the team are expected to happen when he takes Algeria to international tournaments before they arrive at the 2013 Afrobasket stage, Abidjan.
Algeria are due to compete at the Arab Championship in late November in Iraq, before taking part in the Mediterranean Games in Turkey, in June 2013.
Historically, Algeria finished runner-up after a 78-68 defeat to Angola in 2001, before they finished seventh in 2003 in Egypt.

As hosts of 2005 Afrobasket, they could only come in fourth after an 88-76 loss to Nigeria.
Should Algeria miss out on the team’s objective, then they will have to carry out a deeper reshuffle.
Júlio Chitunda FIBA

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