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

Pythons Off To FIBA Africa Games -As Harbel Pointers’ Protest Ends In Shambles -Did Cash Exchanged Hands?

Liberia’s 2019 LBA’s National League Champions, NPA Pythons, have departed the country for Benin, Cotonou to participate in the qualifying tournaments of the 2020 Basketball Africa League (BAL).

A 24-man delegation including fifteen players left the country Sunday, October 27, for Benin as they will begin their journey in the BAL’s competition for a spot in African Basketball Championship tournament.

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

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.

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.

NPA Pythons were 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. 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 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.

Pythons won three matches of the best out of five finals games against Harbel Pointers. The pointers managed to get one back but could not survive the fourth game as Pythons comfortably crushed their counterparts to be crowned the LBA’s 2019 Champions.

What appeared as a scaring moment for Champions Pythons appeared last Thursday week, when a 48hour ultimatum was given to Liberia Basketball Association (LBA) by the ministry of Youth and Sports (MYS) to look into a protest filed by Harbel Pointers.

At a meeting attended by basketball’s stakeholders, the Ministry of Sports also announced that they were placing a hold on Pythons’ Championship and subsequent attempt to travel until matters surrounding the protest can be handled by the LBA.

MYS insisted that the LBA should have investigated the HP’s protest before allowing Game 4 of the best out of five matches to be played. The ministry maintained that the LBA’s refusal to address the protest against NPA Pythons undermines the legitimacy of the team’s championship. They blasted that the LBA proceeded wrongly, and therefore, presented the LBA with a 48hour to produce a finding from the Harbel Pointers’ protest so as to resolve the matter.

It is still unclear whether the protest was amicably addressed by the LBA within the stipulated period before the departure of Pythons.

Earlier, Harbel Pointers filed a protest insisting that NPA fielded two illegal foreign players against in three of the five final matches.

Harbel Pointers also protested against the LBA’s decision to submit the name of fellow title contender, NPA Pythons to FIBA Africa while the national league had not ended.

The Pointers are demanded that the LBA makes public the transfer records of NPA Pythons’ two foreign players. Sam Theophilus Wilson of Harbel Pointers told the INQUIRER in a telephone conversation last week that the act of the LBA was 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.

He told this paper that the LBA informed him of the protest hearing on Wednesday, October 23, but unfortunately nothing was held.

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 was still in progress.

The decision of the LBA to present a candidate as Champions for Liberia was also contested by the Pointers, who later gave the local basketball house an ultimatum to reverse the decision until the league can come to a climax.

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.

Traditionally, it is the local basketball house that verifies and signatures 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 in fact they were not champions yet, and the league was still ongoing.

When asked what could be his next action if nothing was 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 concerns.”

“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.

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

SG Goodridge also declined on commenting further until after the protest hearing. Unfortunately, the protest hearing was not held by the LBA, something that later promoted the Ministry of Youth and Sports (MYS) to host a called meeting so as to address the issue.

Basketball pundits earlier termed the situation as a total embarrassment to the country. Some attributed the misunderstanding and 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 in 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.  

Over the weekend, there were speculations that Harbel Pointers dropped the protest against NPA Pythons. But Pointers’ Wilson termed as untrue reports that he did abandon the protest, and promised to revert to the Ministry of Youth and Sports (MYS) this week. Wilson admitted to holding a meeting with both the LBA and Pythons but could not make full disclosure as to what was agreed. Basketball’s pundits are claiming that Harbel Pointers were induced with money to forego the protest.

Effort to get a word from the LBA’s leadership proved futile as the Secretary Allen Goodridge promised to provide clarity later this week.

Meanwhile, players making the trip include Captain Joel Martor, Emmanuel Paye, John Bing, Samuel Davidson, Samuel Kpenneh and two foreign based players Joseph and Mohammed. The team also has included a China-based player, James Baker. Others on the delegation include, Jerry and Samuel Willie, Charles Adbeoudo, Will Collingwood, Abraham Petors and John Williams.

D. Webster Cassell writes

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