The African international basketball championship in Kigali, Rwanda has come to life: the BAL, Basketball Africa League, started on May 16 with the qualifying rounds for the 12 teams from all over the continent admitted to the competition, while in these days they are the quarter-finals are in progress, that is the direct elimination matches that will select the teams for the semi-finals on 29th and, consequently, for the final on 30th May.
This is the first edition of the BAL, it is a professional championship with 12 club teams from all over Africa, created with a partnership between the International Basketball Federation (FIBA), which organizes the world basketball championship, and the National Basketball Association (NBA), which organizes the most famous and important national championship on the planet, that of the United States. This is the first time that the NBA has collaborated to create and manage a championship outside North America and the purpose is twofold: to spread the passion for basketball on the continent and above all to discover new talents. As NBA Commissioner Adam Silver told the BBC, “We are here in Africa because we believe we can record; this continent is an opportunity, because it has over a billion people and an incredible passion for basketball ”.
The new league was born in 2019 and the first championship was supposed to take place in March 2020 in seven African cities: Cairo (Egypt), Dakar (Senegal), Lagos (Nigeria), Luanda (Angola), Tunis or Monastir (Tunisia. ), Rabat (Morocco) and Kigali (Rwanda). Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, however, the entire competition has been postponed for 14 months – to May this year, in fact – and in one place: the futuristic Kigali Arena. Here the hymn of the event, composed and performed by the singers Bruce Melodie and Dip Doundou Guiss:
The logic of BAL is similar to that of the football Champions League in Europe: 12 teams participate, six by right (the winners of the national champions of Angola, Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal and Tunisia) and six after the qualifiers (this’ year come from Algeria, Cameroon, Madagascar, Mali, Mozambique and Rwanda). The teams of the first edition of the BAL are: Atlético Petróleos de Luanda (Angola), AS Douanes (Senegal), AS Police (Mali), Association Sportive de Salé (Morocco), FAP (Cameroon), Ferroviário de Maputo (Mozambique), GNBC (Madagascar), GS Pétroliers (Algeria), Patriots BBC (Rwanda), Rivers Hoopers (Nigeria), US Monastir (Tunisia), Zamalek (Egypt).
After qualifying in three groups, the quarter-finals are between FAP and Zamalek, AS Salé and Atlético Petróleos de Luanda, AS Douanes and US Monastir, Ferroviário de Maputo and Patriots BBC. Among these eight teams are the two that will compete for first place on Sunday 30 May.
According to the common rules, dictated by the NBA, each team must have twelve players, eight originating from the country to which the team belongs, while the other four may be foreigners, but two necessarily from other African countries. This means that at least 120 of the 144 basketball players involved are African, but also that there are various international stars of the sport or very unique cases, as in the case of the BBC Patriots. In fact, J. Cole is part of the home team’s squad, the famous American rapper, known for his great passion for basketball, who has signed a contract with the Rwandan team for the BAL matches, so far also scoring some precious points. In this photograph he is next to the president of Rwanda, Paul Kagame:
– Presidency | Rwanda (@UrugwiroVillage) May 24, 2021
The BAL replaces the former African Basketball League, another Pan-African club tournament, which existed since 1971, but the current competition is projected into a more ambitious dimension, as the presence of sponsors of the caliber of Nike and Jordan Brand also suggests. who made the uniforms of the twelve teams.
For fans who want to follow the developments of the tournament, the BAL website collects the calendars, rankings and all the other details of a large and complex organization that has nothing to envy to the European and American ones: https: / /www.thebal.com/