Temps de lecture : 3 mn 🕗
QUELIMANE (Mozambique) – More and more female coaches continue to embrace men's basketball in Africa in recent times, and Dilar Dessai has written her own story in a unique way.
Two months ago, a record three female assistant coaches made their presence felt in the qualifiers for the 2023 Basketball Africa League (BAL).
Dessai, a former Mozambican international player who served as assistant coach for her native country's women's national team under Nasir Sale, for more than five years, became the first female coach to lead a men's team to the podium of Mozambique's MOZAL League.
A month ago Dessai's Sporting the Quelimane stunned former local champions and BAL participant Ferroviario de Maputo to finish third for the first time in the club's history.
Interestingly enough, Ferroviario de Quelimane counted on a trio of brothers who stood out for Mozambique men's team for almost a decade, including Dessai's husband Augusto Matos, his twin Pio Matos and older brother Amarildo Matos.
Women coaching men's team has become a popular event. Even NBA Commissionaire Adam Silver recently showed his support for more female coaches in the league. And Valerie Garnier – a former player who coached France women's team for years – has recently signed for Tours in France's NM1.
“I don't think there is a big difference between female and male basketball coaches,” Dessai told FIBA.basketball.
“Authority within the locker room can be an issue for female coaches, but that can be overcome with actions. A coach must be able to put in practice their theories and skillset regardless of the gender. They must communicate and act. At the end of the day it's all about results.”
Team Mozambique at 2014 Women's World Cup. Dilar Dessai (far right)
She goes further, saying “Now that we finished third, we are already thinking about [MOZAL] title, and the BAL, who knows? We are no longer newcomers. Our initial goal was to avoid relegation, but we finished third after beating more established teams.”
Augusto (32), Pio (32) and Amarildo Matos (37) have donned Mozambique's jersey at several editions of AfroBasket, and Dessai played for her country.
Asked to share her wife-coach experience, Dessai admitted that on the basketball court the pair has coach-player relation like any other, although she admits that they discuss basketball tactics at home.
“It's a difficult position to be in, not just because he is my husband, and they are my brothers-in-law, it's more to do with the fact that they are already renowned players. They have habits, which, create some disagreements sometimes. Other than that, they are all coachable.”
Dessai came a long to be in the position she is now. From winning three FIBA Africa Champions Cup Women (2007, 2008 and 2012) as an assistant to Nasir Sale, to helping her country qualify for the 2014 FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup in Turkey, she has seen in all.
“Those competitions helped me as a coach. Those were incredible learning experiences,” she observed.
Augusto Matos is seen in action at 2015 AfroBasket
This new wave of female coaches in men's basketball, Dessai explains, “shows that women are coming out of their comfort zone. I know some female coaches in men's basketball from their playing careers. Some women remain as assistant coaches, maybe, because some lack self-confidence, or opportunities.”
A mother of two girls aged 18 and 11, Dessai has high goals for her coaching career, but she is first to admit that there is a long way to go until female coaches can live off basketball in Africa.
“As a coach I would love to reach higher goals. Working with the men's national, even as assistant, is something that I would go for. Coaching outside of Mozambique would be more difficult for me because of my job and my family here in Quelimane. I could try it, but once the championship ends, what would I do? Would I risk losing my job for basketball? Not at this stage,” says Dessai who combines her banking job with basketball coaching.
Dessai is seen in the background during the 2012 FIBA Women's Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Ankara, Turkey
Talking about the Sporting de Quelimane project, which has shook up MOZAL League, Dessai noted that before they became the team that they are now, they faced several challenges. “We lacked a real sponsors; We changed names for marketing and sponsors reasons, we didn't have a basketball court, so we had to practice on the streets until we launched the basketball section of Sporting de Quelimane. “
Female coaches in men's basketball is not just about box ticking, they are are making a difference in the men's game.