By Petros Kausiyo
Zimbabwe’s basketball is poised for a major facelift amid revelations by visiting National Basketball Association vice president and managing director for Africa Amadou Gallo Fall that they are working on a programme to enhance development of the sport in the country.
Fall flew into Harare yesterday on a working visit in which he was expected to meet Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation Minister Kirsty Coventry and her deputy Yeukai Simbanegavi yesterday.
The Senegalese, who revealed ambitious plans that could transform the face of local basketball and open avenues to break into the NBA game for talented players, was in the company of some of his local partners – businessman Mike Chimombe and Eric Nullens, the chairman of LHALYS group of companies.
It is Fall’s second visit to Zimbabwe.
Crucially for local basketball family is the fact that there is greater commitment from Fall and his partners to see their projects in the country take off the ground.
Fall is also expected to meet with various other key stakeholders who include the Basketball Union of Zimbabwe and those in charge of the Hoops for Hope and ensure the project gets underway.
The NBA vice-president through his Sports for Education and Economic Development Foundation has already undertaken various projects that empower basketball communities in countries which include his native Senegal, Rwanda and Uganda.
Fall said SEED Foundation has secured the support of Econet Wireless founder Strive Masiyiwa on the project which they want to undertake in Zimbabwe.
He said he had noted the huge potential that Zimbabwe has to grow into a basketball force on the continent and believes he can help some talented players through providing them with a similar platform he had when he was growing up in Senegal which culminated in his move to the NBA.
“This is the second time to visit. The first time we came to visit with our partner Strive Masiyiwa and the Econet Group, you know Kwese is our broadcast partner they broadcast NBA games in Southern Africa. So we have always really seen Zimbabwe having a lot of potential.
“I have seen some high schools participate in South Africa, some Durban High Schools tournament
“There is a lot of potential in Zimbabwe for basketball development. There is a lot of passion for the sport and a lot of passion for sport generally in Zimbabwe.
“In basketball we have a lot of friends in Zimbabwe, some who are running the hoops for hope programmes and we have had some NBA coaches come to the country,” Fall said.
Fall said they would refurbish the basketball infrastructure re in the country and turn them into world class facilities.
The NBA vice-president also passionately about his wish to empower young people and use basketball to build communities.
He said the SEED Foundation, launched in 1998, was based on his life story and how it gave him his gateway after a volunteer facilitated a scholarship for him to the United States.
To play the sport and also study.
Fall now wants to replicate such opportunities across the continent and Zimbabwe looks set to be his next stop.
“Sport is no longer just for recreation, it is a tool for education, for development.
“I got lucky and I saw how sport could help you achieve good things through the marriage of sport and education . . . I looked at how I could get a chance to give back through the opportunities I had.
“I asked myself, how do I empower young people, how do I get a chance to give back and take this beyond an individual and make it a powerful tool for the community. Sport is no longer just for recreation but keeps the young people on the right path, sport is the economic engine,” Fall said.
Fall said he would want Harare to be a venue where some global basketball events could be staged and for that to happen, his foundation would spearhead the refurbishment of the local infrastructure to meet the global standards.
“We had an event in August at the San Marino in Johannesburg and why not have something similar here in Harare,” Fall said.
According to his resume as vice-president and managing director, NBA Africa Fall works with local federations and basketball entities in Africa to grow the game on the continent.
“Fall, originally from Senegal, also oversees the NBA’s grassroots events and its partnerships with marketing, media and consumer products companies in Africa.
“Before joining the league office Fall worked for the Dallas Mavericks as director of player personnel and vice-president of international affairs. He served as the team’s goodwill ambassador internationally and oversaw their scouting assignments.
“In his role, Fall travelled to Africa and was an integral part of the NBA’s Basketball without Borders, the NBA and FIBA’s global elite basketball development program that also uses the sport to create positive social change in the areas of education, health, and wellness.
“Prior to spending 12 years with the Mavericks, Fall worked for the Senegalese Ministry of Youth and Sports and the Senegalese Basketball Federation. The national team he assembled won the 1997 African Championship and participated in the 1998 FIBA World Championship in Greece”.
An enthusiastic Chimombe said he was hopeful all local stakeholders would come to the party and help Fall to empower the basketball talent scattered around the country.