Former Professional Basketball Player Mouphtaou Yarou Discusses the Importance of Communication in Sports Career

(Agence Ecofin) – During the Big Blast Future 2K23 basketball tournament, we met Beninese former professional basketball player Mouphtaou Yarou. The young retiree agreed to come back for us on several subjects including the importance of communication in a sports career.

Ecofin Agency: Hello Mouftaou Yarou. Can you tell us why it was important for you to be present at the Big Blast Future 2K23 basketball tournament?

Mouphtaou Yarou : When there are initiatives like that, we are always available to contribute our stone to the building. We may not be there all year round, but it’s important to be present at these times to support the development of basketball here.

AE: After your time with the Villanova Wildcats and several seasons in European teams, you decided a few months ago to end your career. How do you define yourself today?

MY: How would I define myself? This is a difficult question. For the moment, I am building myself. I am lucky to be part of the HEC Paris community which helps me a lot, along with my September 2021 MBA classmates. You should know that I never imagined that I would one day be a professional basketball player. . My ambition was to travel, to do better studies. Because I am the son of a single mother who was 50 years old. Sport made me travel and today I’m doing great studies.

I am now aiming for a career in consulting. Over the past few months, I’ve learned a lot about finance and industries. Coming from a sports background, I have had some contact with people operating in the marketing sector, but at the moment I have not yet decided specifically which of these areas I want to get into. However, it is certain that I aspire to integrate the medium of the council. That said, currently the blockchain also fascinates me. I observe a little how this technology will have an impact on Africa, especially at the level of banks and fintechs. This is quite interesting due to the low bankarization of the continent.

AE: It’s surprising, knowing that a few months ago you were only talking about training and the courts. What was the trigger and pushed you to stop your sports career?

MY : My mother kept telling me all the time that you have to study. The elders at Villanova University often told me that. It is very important for young people on the path to a sporting career not to neglect this aspect. The seniors in college always told me that when you’re not coaching after a career as a basketball player, it’s hard to do anything else. Because you have to learn, know the different assets, the codes of conduct, etc. I was injured in 2019 and I met athletes who were following a course at HEC. In particular, I met Jacques Boussuge, a former rugby player who has since become my mentor as part of my studies, who told me about HEC. When I contacted the School, they really welcomed me. That’s when I started thinking about post-basketball. I returned to the courts for two seasons, then I stopped.

AE: Yet you dreamed of the NBA. When did you tell yourself that it would no longer be possible?

MY: I had a good chance in college of ending up in the NBA. But I was injured in my 2nd year. Then, during my 3rd year, we had a very bad season. Then, basketball in the United States changed between 2012 and 2013. The pivots were less massive. They were faster. Strong and less athletic profiles like me were no longer popular. I spoke with the coaches of the NBA. They told me that if I had the opportunity to make a big career in Europe, I had to take it. I did the Summer League (summer competition where NBA teams test rookies and players from their benches before the start of the season; Editor’s note) with the Sixers, the Philadelphia NBA franchise. I tried out with the Golden State Warriors (2022 NBA champions; Editor’s note) and with the Boston Celtics. I had a very good relationship with the Assistant General Manager of this last franchise. When he offered to prepare me to become a manager like him, I understood.

I got into basketball by accident. It was a real blessing. The NBA and my dream of playing there were no longer really accessible. You have to accept it. We had examples of people like Masai Ujiri, of Nigerian descent, who after his injury preferred to continue on a career as a General Manager and won the title against Golden State in 2019. So in view of all this, I left for Europe, I had a fine career there which I have just ended. But I’m not completely leaving the world of basketball. There are projects, for example with Ian Mahinmi (Franco-Beninese player, NBA champion in 2011; Editor’s note) in Benin, in which I want to get involved. I want to do consulting, it’s true, but I won’t be disconnected from basketball. Further from the land, of course, but not disconnected.

AE: In your experience, is there an area that still prevents professional careers in Africa from moving forward?

MY: Without a doubt, communication. African athletes often do not have a team that manages their communication. If I started my career again today, I would find someone who would follow what I have to post on social media. Take for example the Sudanese player Bol Bol. He is 23 years old, full of talent, plays in the NBA, but is not very well known.

Look at the work done by the communication team of Frenchman Victor Wembanyama to make it known this year all over the world. He is unique and has a lot of talent, but communication helps. There has to be communication. There has to be a team around because it’s difficult to play and communicate at the same time. I’m a bit like Sadio Mané and despite his accomplishments, he doesn’t communicate much for a star of his level. We have very competent people in communication in Africa, we must involve them.

AE: Speaking of communication, we have seen many countries use sport in recent years to promote themselves. Saudi Arabia and Qatar do it with football, Senegal with basketball. For you, can basketball help strengthen the national branding of Benin?

MY : Obviously, we see that stars like Masai Ujiri are interested in what is being done in this area in Benin. Sport is very important for the image of a country. We have seen the national football team highlight Benin thanks to its qualification for the quarter-finals of the Africa Cup of Nations in 2019. I think this type of communication is intrinsically linked to the results. You do basic work on the athletes and when they get results it’s your flag and therefore your tourist sites and your industries that are a bit more exposed to the world. Today, we see more and more Senegalese athletes on social networks and when we talk about them, we talk about Senegal and the country gains something.

AE: Aren’t these efforts in communication also interesting for local sports competitions?

MY : Of course. By communicating on the African champions, people will be more interested in African sport at the base, in our leagues. Look at the Basketball Africa League and what it has done for the image of some African basketball clubs and even national leagues. With this tournament, Americans and Europeans are beginning to see each other play in Africa since there is now a competition as publicized as the Basketball Africa League. But for that, governments must work to make our championships accessible on television and the media must be involved. It is an effort that will benefit countries when champions explode. It is really important to look at Senegal as an example in this area.

Interview by Adoni Quenum and Servan Ahougnon

2023-08-10 16:48:45
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