Best medical minds will help BAL to be hosted safely in Rwanda, say organisers
JOHANNESBURG – The president of the Basketball Africa League, Amadou Gallo Fall said Tuesday, his organisation was doing everything in its power to ensure the League takes place in a safe environment in Kigali in May.
The BAL announced earlier this week that the inaugural competition would be hosted in the Rwandan capital from May 16 to 30, but with a drastically reduced schedule, for the 12 participating teams and in a bio-secure environment.
Speaking on Tuesday, Gallo Fall didn’t share any details about the health protocols that will be in place for the competition - including how long the teams and officials would be in the ‘bio bubble’ before the competition started or how many and how frequently tests for Covid-19 would be conducted. “We have some of the best medical minds in the world working with us on this,” said Gallo Fall. He cited the World Health organisation, the Centre for Disease Control in Africa, Rwandan health authorities as well as the NBA’s own medical experts as being on standby to provide advice and assistance.
“We can borrow from their experiences of playing in bubbles in the NBA and WNBA. We are confident that the protocol we will put in place will allow us to have a safe environment.”
Rwanda has employed some of the hardest restrictions seen on the continent to battle Covid-19 and its vaccine rollout programme has seen around 70000 people per day receive an injection.
The BAL was supposed to have taken place last year, and would have been hosted across seven countries before moving to Kigali for the finals series in June. However the pandemic put those plans on ice. Gallo Faul confirmed that the tournament could have taken place towards the end of last year, but officials felt that it would be better to wait until conditions allowed for it to happen.
Even so, the schedule for this year’s tournament is reduced and of course it will take place over a couple of weeks and not a few months, all in one city, at the Kigali Arena which was completed in August 2019. This year’s amended competition will tip off with an 18-game group phase with the 12 teams - divided into three groups of four. During the group phase, each team will face the three other teams in its group once. The top eight teams from the group phase will qualify for the playoffs, which will be single elimination in all three rounds.
“The challenges were not unique to our league, the pandemic caused a lot of sport to be halted and it has impacted on businesses, but I think we have to be patient and stay committed to our objectives.”
During lockdown last year, the BAL, through the NBA, allowed the 12 participating clubs to tap into basketball brains from the NBA including renowned coaches; Gregg Popovich, who’s led the San Antonio Spurs to five NBA championships, Steve Kerr, who’s coached Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors to three championships, and Masai Ujiri, the president of the 2019 champions the Toronto Raptors.
“We used the time to find innovative ways to engage with our fans and the teams. By getting our teams and players to interact with those leading basketball brains we help build capacity for our teams,” said Gallo Fall.
Importantly for the BAL, it was able to hold onto some key commercial partners, including Nike’s Jordan division which will provide clothing for all the teams. “I think those partners understand that we are here for the long term,” Gallo Fall explained.