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Malian Hamane Niang, new president of the International Basketball Federation (FIBA). Courtesy of fiba.basketball

Hamane Niang was elected president of the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) on Aug. 29 in Beijing shortly before the start of the first 32-team men's World Cup. The former Minister of Youth and Sports of Mali and now former boss of the African basketball evokes for rfi.fr his pride to be at the head of the FIBA ​​as well as his ambitions for the orange balloon. Interview.

RFI: Hamane Niang, you are the new president of the International Basketball Federation (FIBA). Leading FIBA, was it an old goal or did this project mature in your mind over time?

Hamane Niang : Frankly, it's a project that has matured over time. I was far from imagining that I would become president of FIBA. But you have to look at my past. There was club management and that of the Malian Basketball Federation. There was my visit to the Ministry of Youth and Sports of Mali for four years. I also went through the various bodies of FIBA ​​Africa before leading FIBA ​​Africa for five years. So, to be president of FIBA ​​today, I think we can say that this is a normal course. But it was not obvious before.

What will FIBA's priorities be during your term of office (2019-2023)?

[...] During the Congress held in China on 29 and 30 August 2019 in Beijing, we defined the pillars of our action, in agreement with the 156 federations present. [...]

The most important pillars that we can retain are articulated around the development of federations. They are at the heart of our development policy. We want strong federations. Because to boost basketball in the world, we must have very strong associations. This is what we started doing in the "One FIBA" project. And this policy will continue and strengthen. [...]

The second and no less important axis concerns gender. Women will be at the heart of our strategic policy. We want women at all levels of basketball, not just as players: referees, technical officials, fans, as well as in our organizations. We want things to move in terms of the representativeness of women in all the structures of basketball, from the floor to the world bodies.

The third major aspect is to make FIBA ​​a big family, solid and supportive. An extended family around the world. We want basketball to become a big global community. For this, we still need to open ourselves. [...]

How do you judge the current situation of basketball in the world?

If we take a look at the World Cup currently taking place in China, we can say without a doubt that basketball is moving in the right direction. The competition brings together 32 teams that are spread over eight cities. All that gives more colors, power, fans, visibility, to this event. We have a very good quality of play during this competition. It's all good for basketball.

If we look at the overall situation of basketball, we also see the opening of new professional leagues. In Africa, after the success of the AfroLeague in 2019, the Basketball Africa League (BAL) will soon open in collaboration with the NBA, for the happiness of young African players. [...] The same dynamic brings us to the Americas. In addition to the already existing pro leagues, there will be a new one launched by FIBA ​​for South American clubs. In Asia, we will also create a new professional league. And, of course, in Europe, there has been for a few years the Basketball Champions League (BCL), a competition that follows its path and that is gaining value.

[...] I think we are entitled to say that we are better. But we can do even better. We will do everything, in any case, to carry high basketball, in the concert of the sports world.

As President of FIBA ​​Africa, you worked on a very active collaboration between FIBA ​​and the NBA, notably through the creation of the Basketball Africa League. Do you want this type of collaboration to become more common around the world?

Yes. The NBA is an exportable model. They have worn basketball high all over the world. They have proven expertise. I think the FIBA-NBA collaboration is all good. I very much hope that it can continue.

Since we are talking about the NBA, are you surprised that many US players in this league have refused to defend the colors of Team USA during the World Cup?

Surprised, yes. We expected the presence of NBA stars. But if we take a look at the prosecution in China, we realize that it is a boon for some stars [...] who have the opportunity to spread their talents.

The quality of play of some teams is there. We can not say that the level of play is low in China. The level of play has increased, thanks to the presence of these non-American stars playing in the NBA. Not to mention the stars playing on their continent. I think we have to be much more insistent on that aspect.

How did the former boss of FIBA ​​Africa judge the course of the African teams during this World Cup 2019, all eliminated in the first round?

We have a pinch in the heart when we see all the potential we had ... It was believed that African teams could cross the course of the second round. But that was not the case. It's sport ... You have to learn from it.

There are still a few days of competition for the five African teams present in China to separate and so that we can get to know the continent's qualifier at the next Olympic Games. It looks very tight when you look at the results of Tunisia and Nigeria.

But, of course, with regard to Côte d'Ivoire, Angola and Senegal, we can say that there is still a bit of regret. We believed in it a lot.

This World Cup in China must give food for thought in Africa. We must also continue to work because only work pays. By continuing to work, I remain convinced that Africa can play an important role in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and, why not, prepare in another way for the 2023 World Cup to be held in Japan, Indonesia and other countries. Philippines.