International Basketball Federation (Fiba) Africa have come up with a tough new eligibility rule that might see new champions emerge at the continental Zone Five championships set for Kampala, Uganda next month.
The rule limits national teams to fielding no more than two foreign-based professionals in Fiba Africa-organised tournaments. This means the remaining 10 players will have to be local-based.
Speaking from Luanda, Angola on Thursday, Kenya Basketball Federation secretary general Vitalis Gode said the rule will apply at the Fiba Zone Five African Games qualifiers set for Kampala, Uganda from June 25.
“Fiba wants to grow local players and wants to ensure as many local-based players are engaged in international competitions as possible," Gode said.
Kenya coaches have swiftly condemned the requirement, terming it retrogressive.
While most stakeholders feel the new rule will mostly affect, Somalia, Uganda and Rwanda, who have been relying on their foreign-based players for international competitions, Kenya women's coach Ronnie Owino said this was the worst rule Fiba had brought into place and wants them reversed.
“To me, this rule does not make sense because denying an indigenous Kenyan an opportunity to represent the country is not only unfair but unacceptable,” said Owino, who was intending to call up at least four foreign-based players for the African Games qualifiers.
Kenya men's team coach Cliff Owuor was equally disappointed saying he had targeted calling up at least five foreign-based in his squad.
But Storms women's coach Cameroonian Abel Nson said the rule was good as long as Fiba Africa restricted it to Zonal championships only.
“Where do we expect these local players who play in the local league to showcase their talents if we will be bringing in foreign-based players for all international events?" posed Nson adding that it was wrong for countries to field foreign-based players in regional events.
According to Nson, foreign-based players should however be allowed to come in numbers for the Africa championships because it takes a lot of investment to develop them to a level of attracting scouts abroad.
Nson also wants Fiba Africa to create a tournament purely for local players to help expose as many as possible.
With good financing Rwanda, Uganda and Somalia have always had up to eight foreign-based players in their rosters for the Zonal championships. Not surprisingly, Uganda and Rwanda have dominated the men and women categories of the event.
Kenya's men and women, currently in training for the African Games qualifiers in Kampala, play their first competitive friendly match against Ghana Revenue Authority on Friday at the Nyayo National Stadium gymnasium.
According to KBF executive committee member Maxim Milimu, who has been managing the teams, arrangements are complete for the friendly with the women’s match tipping off at 6pm while the men’s match starts at 8pm.