The Inquirer is a leading independent daily newspaper published in Liberia, based in Monrovia. It is privately owned with a "good reputation".

Protest Hits Basketball Again! -Harbel Pointers Give LBA Ultimatum -Wants Pythons Withdrawn From FIBA’s Preliminaries

Liberia’s lone representative at the 2018 FIBA Zone III qualifiers, Harbel Pointers, is protesting against the Liberia Basketball Association (LBA’s) decision to submit the name of fellow title contender, NPA Pythons to FIBA Africa while the national league has not ended.

The troublesome Pointers are currently lockdown in a best out of five finals with NPA Pythons already in the lead 2-1. Pythons won the first two matches with a comfortable game day margin but the Pointers got one back in the third fixture with two to go.

But the news later surfaced that the Liberia Basketball Association (LBA) clandestinely submitted the name of Pythons to FIBA Africa as Liberia’s new basketball champions whilst the league has not come to an end.

The decision of the LBA to present a candidate as Champions for Liberia has been heavily contended by pointers, who have also given the local basketball house an immediate ultimatum to reverse the decision until the league can come to a climax.

Sam Theophilus Wilson told the INQUIRER in a telephone conversation that the act of the LBA is tantamount to match fixing and that his club could face the wrath of the association in an attempt to substantiate their Pythons-Champions’ communication to FIBA Africa.

Wilson, who is also the General Manager of Harbel Pointers, insisted that the decision by the LBA was absolutely wrong, unprofessional and unacceptable in the twenty first century.

The tough–talking basketball’s stakeholder lamented that FIBA will not unilaterally take a decision to include the name of NPA Pythons in the Africa Champions Clubs qualifiers fixture without the acquiescence of the LBA.

NPA Pythons have been drawn in Group B that includes Abidjan Basket Club of Ivory Coast, ASPAC of Benin, Braves Customs of Ghana and Nigelec Basket Club of Niger.

FIBA Africa recently announced the 32 clubs across Africa that will participate in the qualifying tournaments for the 2020 Basketball Africa League.

Teams have been divided into six groups with the top two of each group, in total 12 teams, advancing to the next round.

An additional four teams will be invited to compete in the “Elite 16”, the second round of the qualifying tournaments.

Four cities, including Bamako (Mali), Libreville (Gabon) Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) and Antananarivo (Madagascar) have been confirmed as hosts of the qualifying tournaments for the Elite-16. Two other cities will be determined at a later date.

The top six placed teams from the Elite-16 will then join Champions from Angola, Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal and Tunisia to complete the basketball Africa League (BAL) 2020 regular season lineup of 12 teams.

The BAL, which was announced earlier this year, is a partnership between FIBA and NBA. It is the NBA’s first collaboration to operate a league outside of North America. The inaugural BAL season will begin in March 2020, with 12 teams divided into two conferences.

The groups of the qualifying tournaments for the Elite-16 have already been drawn by the organizers with Liberia situated in Group B alongside Ivory Coast, Benin and Niger. Group B competition is expected to run from October 29 to November 3 respectively.

From the look of things, NPA Pythons have already gone over 95% into preparation for the pending regional competition as the tournament is expected to kick off eight days from now.

Traditionally, it is the local basketball house that verifies and signature all the outgoing team’s paperwork ahead of their participation in any expected regional competition.

But Harbel Pointers’ contention is that why should the LBA submit the name of Pythons when the fact of the issue is that they are not champions yet, and therefore, the league is still ongoing.

In all fairness, the request of the Pointers could be a very hard thing to grant considering the level of progress made so far by Pythons as Liberia’s lone representative at the FIBA Africa 2020 Basketball Africa League.

When asked what could be his next action if nothing is done to address his concerns, Mr. Wilson said, “ We have already written FIBA Africa acknowledging them of the situation back in Liberia.”

He averred: “There are other remedies to follow with. The Ministry of Youth and Sports (MYS) has also been communicated to, and in fact, there is a scheduled meeting to listen to our call.”

“This is a country of laws and the Liberia Basketball Association is of no exception as they are also guided by laws. We hope that we will get the needed redress,” the Harbel Pointers’ Executive added.

At the same time, Harbel Pointers has filed a protest insisting that NPA fielded two illegal players against them in the past three games. He told this paper that the LBA has informed him of the protest hearing on Wednesday, October 23. The Pointers are demanding that the LBA makes public the transfer records of NPA Pythons’ two foreign players. The situation could even worsen if the LBA fails to provide the required documentation for the foreign players.

Basketball pundits have termed the current situation as a total embarrassment to the country. Some are attributing the ongoing rigmarole to the lackadaisical approach and poor administration of the Anderson led-administration.

The Anderson led-administration has been engulfed with controversies and protestation in the last 4years. Some of the contestations have been drawn from the reckless handling of serious administrative issues by the local basketball house, and their insensitive approach towards the improvement of basketball in the twenty first century.

Liberia has been seriously lacking behind its regional counterparts with the progress of basketball. The local basketball league has suffered too many setbacks in the last years with stakeholders citing lack of vision and ambition from the LBA. The LBA itself has repeatedly demonstrated and given reasons why the current leadership should retire so as to allow the inflow of fresh brains who will undoubtedly take the game to an altogether new level in Liberia. Basketball is supposedly Liberia’s most protest sport, and the failure to harmonized thoughts in accelerating the growth of the game is a hindrance.  

Meanwhile, the Liberia Basketball Association (LBA) has termed as untrue the allegation of submitting only Pythons name to FIBA Africa. LBA Secretary General, Allen Goodridge said the association presented both Pythons and Harbel Pointers for consideration.

SG Goodridge also declined on commenting further until after the protest hearing which has been scheduled for this Wednesday. D. Webster Cassell writes

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