Africa-Press – Cape verde. In 2019, in a joint effort between the National Basketball Association (NBA) and International Basketball Federation (FIBA), the Basketball Africa League (BAL) was founded to replace the Africa Basketball League as the continent’s premier men’s basketball league. The inaugural season of the annual competition took place in May 2021.
Amadou Gallo Fall, President of the Basketball Africa League (BAL), said on the eve of the BAL 2023 championship, that the new basketball league’s long-term goal is to stop the migration of African talent and encourage international basketball players to play in the African league.
Fall, one of the founders of the league, stressed that the will of his BAL administration is focused on laying foundations that will lead to “long-term sustainability”.
At present, under BAL rules, participating teams are allowed to have a maximum of two non-African players in the tournament. Notably, the majority of international players taking part in BAL 2023 are United States nationals. Commenting on this fact, Fall said it’s a step in the right direction toward popularizing African basketball.
Basketball fans across the African continent are awaiting the Saturday kick-off of the third season of the new BAL pan-continent club championship, which will feature 12 African clubs battling it out for the 2023 trophy.
The inaugural season of the competition, which replaced the Africa Basketball League as the continent’s top-tier league, was originally scheduled to take place in 2019 in Rwanda’s capital of Kigali, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the tournament was postponed to May 2021, with Egypt’s Zamalek emerging the winners. Tunisia’s Union Sportive Monastirienne (US Monastir) won the second season which was also held in Rwanda.
Fall told the media that the previous two seasons of the African competition had made a great impression on the basketball culture in the continent.
BAL 2023 will see the 12 participant clubs divided into two regional conferences, competing to qualify for May’s play-offs in the Rwandan capital, Kigali. The top four teams from each conference will advance to the quarter-finals of the play-offs, with the final match set to take place on 27 May.
The first conference, nicknamed the Sahara Conference, will tip off in the Senegalese capital of Dakar on 11 March and will continue for 10 days. It will feature ABC Fighters (Ivory Coast), AS Douanes (Senegal), Kwara Falcons (Nigeria), REG (Rwanda), Stade Malien (Mali), and the champion titleholder US Monastir of Tunisia.
The second conference, dubbed the Nile Conference (26 April to 6 May), includes Al Ahly (Egypt), Cape Town Tigers (South Africa), City Oilers (Uganda), CFV Beira (Mozambique), SLAC (Guinea), and the last year’s runner-up Petro de Luanda of Angola.
The opening match of the Sahara Conference sees Senegal’s AS Douanes facing debutants Ivory Coast’s ABC Fighters on Saturday (16:00 GMT).
Although the coach admits that there may be some “upsets” and “surprises”, she believes that her club is “definitely one of the teams that could win the title”.
South Africa’s BAL 2023 representatives, Cape Town Tigers, who won the South African National Championship twice since the club’s foundation in 2019, is making its debut appearance at the pan-African competition.
The BAL was founded in 2019 as a replacement of the FIBA Africa Basketball League, formerly named the FIBA Africa Clubs Champions Cup, which was the continent’s highest tier men’s professional basketball competition for clubs since its establishment in 1971.
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