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FIBA President Hamane Niang reflects on challenging 2020 and looks to the future

MIES (Switzerland) – As 2020 comes to an end, President took time to reflect on this year heavily impacted by the pandemic and look ahead to what lies ahead in the future until the end of the cycle in 2023. Here is his interview with fiba.basketball.

As we look back over the year, particularly since March when the pandemic hit, FIBA has been able to positively manage the COVID crisis and has successfully executed numerous events. How has this been done?  

FIBA was one of the first federations to take drastic measures at the beginning of the pandemic.

In February, we moved one of the FIBA Women’s Olympic Qualifying Tournaments from Foshan (China) to Belgrade (Serbia), and we were able to organize it professionally and appropriately for our players within nine days. Then on March 12, we decided to suspend all FIBA ​​competitions and after the announcement of the new dates of the Olympic Games, we managed, with the efforts of everyone in the FIBA ​​family, to approve in nine days a calendar adapted for the next three years.

FIBA has demonstrated that as an organisation we can quickly adapt to such a difficult and extraordinary situation.

FIBA first published recommendations on resuming competition in May, with the Return to Basketball – Restart Guidelines for National Federations, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. A second edition was then published in August in order to offer further direction and advice for the restart of basketball activities and competitions for National Federations and leagues.

These guidelines were developed by the FIBA Medical Commission and the FIBA COVID-19 Medical Advisory Group, and in consultation with the FIBA Players Commission. A basketball-specific Risk Assessment Tool has also been produced in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO).

I am proud that FIBA has successfully executed numerous events throughout the year, from the recent November window of the FIBA Continental Cup Qualifiers, to the Basketball Champions League and Basketball Champions League Americas being among the few leagues that were able to finish their seasons. The 3×3 World Tour, which just finished last weekend, played in total 5 events.

The 5th season of the Basketball Champions League is currently underway, as well as the EuroLeague Women 2020/21 season and the EuroCup Women qualification round. Our Regional office in Africa was able to execute the FIBA U18 African Championships in Egypt for both boys and girls recently as well.

The successful and consistent implementation of extensive precautionary measures has led to these events being successful. There was stringent testing, before and during events of all persons, not just athletes, all people entering bubbles. Thanks to the preparatory work of the Medical Commission, the Competitions Commission and other experts, and the consistent decision-making by the Central Board, the Executive Committee and the Zone Boards, FIBA has been able to deliver safe competitions on all continents.

Delivering these competitions has only been possible thanks to extraordinary teamwork from the Regional Offices and our Headquarters and I want to thank every person who was part of this.

Was FIBA able to continue providing support to its National Federation during this very challenging year? 

Over the course of the year FIBA and its Regional Offices have been publishing webinars for National Federations, players, coaches, game officials, photographers and other actors of the game to support them in their development and learning activities. In the summer, we had over 250 webinars produced in the short span of 2 months, with participation from more than 150 National Federations and more than 80,000 individuals. These webinars have continued across all FIBA regions during the whole year.

FIBA published 2 editions of the Return to Basketball – Restart Guidelines for National Federations as well as the BAT COVID-19 Guidelines.

The Basketball Arbitral Tribunal (BAT), which provides resolution services for disputes between players, agents, coaches and clubs through arbitration, published a set of BAT COVID-19 Guidelines. They were written to provide actual and potential BAT users with guidance in proceedings and help facilitate amicable settlements within the basketball community.

FIBA has launched 4 pilot programs as part of the FIBA PLUS Strategy and Planning Program in Europe, the Americas, Oceania and Africa. Four National Federations have been selected to take part in the program, the Kosovo Basketball Federation, the National Basketball Federation of Trinidad and Tobago, Guam Basketball Confederation and the National Basketball Federation of Cape Verde. The FIBA Plus program is designed to assist National Federations in the development of basketball in their country by helping them develop a sustainable strategic focus. The FIBA PLUS Strategy and Planning program is one of the initiatives undertaken by FIBA, as part of its 2019-2023strategy, to “Empower National Federations” to reach their full potential.

The crisis has allowed FIBA to also innovate and develop new projects like the youth skills challenge and the Esports… 

With challenges come opportunities and FIBA was able to adapt and execute two different projects this year.

Due to the pandemic, the U17 World Cups could not take place . This however, provided the opportunity to develop the FIBA U17 Skills Challenge for both boys and girls.  32 teams took part in the FIBA U17 Skills Challenges 2020 following completion of Regional Qualifiers in Africa, Americas, Asia and Europe in August.  A spectacular performance in the Final saw Mongolia conquer the field in the FIBA U17 Skills Challenge 2020, while China celebrated success in the FIBA U17 Women’s Skills Challenge 2020. This format of competition gave the opportunity for some smaller federations to be involved on the international scale and also for teams to train and compete together again.  Greatly received by all who took part and future plans for more editions.

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We have also invested in Esports, organising two editions of the FIBA Esports Open. It has been a huge hit within the global basketball gaming community and has tremendous potential: we had an expanded field of more than 35 national teams for the second edition of the FIBA Esports Open,taking place over three weekends with six regional conferences in November and December. It’s more than double the number of teams, compared to the first tournament!

FIBA had eight strategic objectives defined by the FIBA Congress in Beijing last year. What progress has been made on these and what are the current priorities?  

The focus of the cycle for 2019 – 2023 will be on three strategic priorities.

The first is a continuation of the work done in 2014 – 2019. FIBA is committed to empowering National Federations by helping them sustainably reach their full potential.

We need to support them and offer our resources across all levels, grassroots upwards and to be transparent to allow the development and the strengthening of our members across all National Federations. To make basketball the most popular sports community, gender diversity must be increased and considered in every aspect of the game, on and off the court. This is why the second priority is so important.

FIBA is committed to having more women in basketball: increasing the number of women playing, coaching and officiating, as well as growing the number of fans following the women’s game and ensuring more women are involved in the governance of the game within the FIBA family.

2019 was a pivotal year for women’s basketball with the optimization of the women’s national competition system, the introduction of the FIBA 3×3 Women’s Series and the election of Carol Callan, the first female President for the Americas. In 2020 we approved new rules for additional female referee FIBA licenses and an obligation to have a female coach in women’s junior youth events. Another great news is the launch of Adelante, a program to unleash the next generation of female leaders. These are great success stories; however, there is still a lot more work to do across all levels.

FIBA is committed to enlarging the FIBA Family by increasing its visibility and popularity, which includes growing the number of licensed basketball and 3×3 participants.

We want to attract as many people as possible to basketball. 3×3 has proven to be a great success, particularly with it being added to the Olympic Games for Tokyo. 3×3 basketball is one of our organization’s key elements and has grown dramatically over the past five years.

FIBA also aims to increase its engagement with other stakeholders, not just players and implement various programs within the global basketball community. One example of this is the FIBA Esports Open, that I mentioned before.

We hope to see life and sport return to normal next year, what will be the main focus for FIBA in 2021?

We are looking forward to 2021 and the highly anticipated FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournaments to be held in Canada, Croatia, Lithuania and Serbia, along with the 3×3 Olympic Qualifying Tournaments as well. And then of course there are the Olympic Games in Tokyo with the historic 3×3 debut, that we have all been looking forward to.

For basketball, it will be the first time that 12 Olympic medals will be up for grabs at the Olympic Games.

The BAL launch is also another exciting moment that will take place in 2021. Building on FIBA’s current club competitions in Africa, the BAL marks the NBA’s first collaboration to operate a league outside of North America. We are very excited to be working on this competition jointly with the NBA and I am sure we will witness some magnificent basketball moments once the league tips off.

The journey to the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 will continue in 2021, with the start of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 Qualifiers tipping off in November 2021. We will witness 80 teams taking the court for a chance to play in FIBA’s flagship event, which will be hosted for the first time across three nations – the Philippines, Japan and Indonesia.

We will also continue the important work done this year about FIBA’s strategic priorities and new projects.

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FIBA President Hamane Niang reflects on challenging 2020 and looks to the future
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