05 November 2012

KENYA : From Abidjan back to Nairobi with a lesson to revise

Days before the start of the annual African Clubs Champions for Women (ACCW), Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) withdrew for sponsorship reasons after having finished runners-up in the qualifier tournament, behind fellow Kenyans Eagle Wings.
That was a disappointing decision for players who missed a chance to compete internationally.
Before they pulled out, KPA looked forward to repeating their 2011 ACCW experience, but ended up switching their attentions to the national league and having to follow the most important African clubs tournament through the media.
Meanwhile, Eagle Wings travelled to Abidjan - where this year's ACCW was held - for their second appearance since 2008.
Throughout the tournament, the Kenyan champions battled hard but in the end came up short of their original objective to reach the knock-out stages. The only Eastern African team in the competition realised that loving the game is not enough. They need to improve key aspects of their game.
Kenyans love basketball. If one goes on the internet, it does not take too long to learn how passionate they are about the game. I personally follow some Kenyan sport bloggers on social media.
For instance, for someone to name a regional basketball organisation NBA (Nairobi Basketball Association), they have to be fond of the game. It is up to Kenyan Basketball stakeholders to embrace a professional approach if they are to succeed internationally, just like some of Eagle Wings' ACCW opponents are doing.
The board of Liga Desportiva de Maputo - the 2012 ACCW champions - awarded each player MNZ 50.000 (Mozambican Metical), equivalent to $1.700, an encouraging measure for the club’s future.
In Abidjan, Eagle Wings lost five games, conceding an average of 64 points, much more than the 49 points they scored each 40 minutes. Determined not to go home empty handed, they beat Gabonese NDella 59-51 in the classification game to finish ninth in the 10-team tournament.
I was curious to learn a little bit about the progress of women’s basketball in Kenya before the ACCW and Eagle Wings assistant coach Everlyne Kedogo illustrated the country’s basketball reality.
She said: “Clubs out there [ACCW] take basketball seriously and with a lot of professionalism, some of them inviting back their top professionals from America and Europe for the championship.
“Their structures back in their countries are well developed and there is a lot of financial investment in the clubs.”
To me, Kedogo’s assertion means that the current basketball system in Kenya needs a deep review if they are to avoid further disappointment.
Perhaps her view explains why Kenya women’s basketball capitalised very little from their appearance at the 1994 FIBA World Championship in Australia, after finishing as silver medallist at the previous year's Afrobasket.
It has been more than a decade since Kenya hosted the 1997 Afrobasket Women and missed out on a podium place after a 90-62 defeat to Nigeria in the Bronze Medal Game. Since then, the country's women's national team, a reflection of their clubs, missed out on qualification to the Afrobasket countless times.
They played at the 2007 Afrobasket, but finished bottom with a 1-6 record.
Kedogo understands that they “need to work harder” if they are “to catch up with the rest of the continent.”
“There is a lot we learned [from the ACCW]. First is the investment in the sport and clubs,” she said before adding that “there is the element of physique where their players are well built and tall. Their shooting prowess is so perfect and accurate that is where we were beaten in most of those matches.”
After the Abidjan test, Kenya's national women's players will be reassessed again when they play the 2013 Afrobasket Zone 5 qualifier tournament.
Making it to the continent's main competition will be an opportunity to turn their basketball passion into a national pride.
Júlio Chitunda

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