Sport

Angola on decline, new era dawning in African basketball competitions

HOOPS! with MWEMBE KAONA
WITH other countries recently taking to the podium for the gold medal on African soil indicators are that Angola’s basketball prowess seems to be on the decline.
A new era is dawning for the country whose men’s national and club sides have been a dominant force on the African continent for the past two decades.
History was made at the El Ahly Arena in Cairo last month when the host side became the first Egyptian club to lift the FIBA Africa Champions Cup for men for the first time in two decades after defeating Angola’s Recreativo do Libolo 68 – 66.
The result dented the dominance of Angolan clubs in the competition who have won a record eleven out of twenty nine competitions.
Angolan club Primeiro de Agosto hold the record for the competition’s most wins with eight titles and their best run was from 2007 to 2010 when they won four straight championships.
Other years when de Agosto won the title were in 2002, 2004, 2012 and 2015.
El Ahly become the first local club basketball club to win the trophy since Al Gezira won it in 1996 and it was their first-ever FIBA Africa Champions Cup title.
Recreativo do Libolo entered the tournament as defending champions having won the tournament in Luanda last year when they beat compatriots Petro Atletico 89 -75 which marked their first ever African title.
At senior level, Nigeria beat Angola 74-65 in the final of AfroBasket 2015 in Rades, Tunisia, to claim their first-ever continental championship.
In being crowned African champions, the Nigerians also qualified for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
Angola went into the final looking to win a 12th African title and led early on, before Nigeria’s rotation made the difference as they turned the score around in the second quarter and once they took the lead, they held on to it, going up by as many as 19 points.
Angola has dominated the African scene since 1984 and their men’s senior national team had the honour of playing against the first ever US – Olympic basketball dream team at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics where all-time greats Michael Jordan, Ervin ‘Magic’ Johnson, Larry Bird and Charles Barkley donned the star spangled banner colours to win gold.
Perhaps the lack of new talent coming through could be the reason for their descending strength while on the other hand rival countries are working round the clock to have their say.
On sad note, one of basketballs local greats Joel ‘Jay Bull’ Chibanga was laid to rest ahead of Alinafe Mwale, who I eulogised in last week’s column.
His passing came barely three months after the fraternity lost another great in Mateyo Nkana.
Chibanga played for the then dominant Bank of Zambia Heroes with some of his team mates that included current basketball chief Shawki Fawaz, Billy Banda – who incidentally came home from his Ireland base for the Christmas break only to see off his colleague, Alex Makai, Allan ‘Cheza’ Shawa and Felix Mukungwa.
He was a humble and friendly fellow who played his lungs out to keep his team on top of the statistics. MHSRIEP.
Have a blessed week! mdkaona@gmail.com

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