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Benin professional basketball league achieving goals for players, coaches and clubs
COTONOU (Benin) - Basketball in Benin Republic has taken a new turn and it is for the good.
The introduction of the Benin Professional Basketball League in the country after one year is indeed yielding positive fruits, all thanks to the President of Benin Patrice Talon who as part of his reform agenda for sports insisted that basketball alongside, four other major sports, must be professionalized.
FIBA.basketball had confirmed back in 2021 that a communication from the Sports Project Management Consultant, Sosthene Seflimi on the Creation of Sports Societies and the Tax for the Development of Sport (TDS) had to come into effect.
Under the arrangement, every company operating in Benin and having a minimum turnover of 1 billion FCFA is asked to invest 1/1000 of its previous turnover to support a team of its choice of which basketball is one.
However, at the end of the test run in 2021, the government of Benin Republic moved a step further by requesting all basketball clubs to become companies and thereby ensuring that athletes become full staff. The move, according to the President of the Benin Basketball Federation, Ismahinl Onifade, is to ensure that athletes concentrate fully on their careers and earn adequately from them.
The 2022 season recently concluded saw the emergence of 14 teams for men and eight teams for women. As it turned out, ASPAC which had been perennial champions in the men's and women's categories, now has competition such that other clubs can compete in the area of player quality and pay packages.
Coach of Energie Basketball Club, Klegou Basil while reviewing the season says there is a huge difference in Benin basketball now.
"The Benin Professional Basketball League has really changed many things for us. The quality of organization and competition is high compared to what used to be the case. Players have become better with better income that can help cater for their needs and families.
"As champions, Energie got Cfa5 million while the men's champion got Cfa10 million and this might improve further as the league grows as more foreign players will make it stronger."
Forward Doris Ezeakudolu, who featured for ASPAC women's team in the league in which they lost in the final to Energie BC in her first year expressed joy and described the Benin Professional League as exciting and rewarding in terms of pay.
"As a player, I am excited to have been a part of the league. The pay is encouraging and makes you give your best. My only area of worry is with officiating which I believe will get better."
Proprietor of ASPAL of Parakou, Taofick Ahmed says the Benin Professional Basketball League this year has improved far better than it was last year.
"All the teams are better. This season, my team lost just only one game which was in the final to Elan Coton. It's huge for us being our second consecutive final in two years and I am proud of the Benin Basketball Federation for its success. As a team, we're already looking forward to the new season because foreign players will no longer have restrictions anymore. I also look forward to the improvement of indoor facilities to improve the quality of play."
Secretary-General of the Benin Basketball Federation, Epiphane Soudonou admits that the success of the Pro-League has been amazing.
"With this Professional League, several athletes have an employee status with basketball companies coupled with an insurance policy which in the past was not available to most teams."
On the challenges before the federation ahead of the new season, Sodonou says: "First of all, the young athletes must be able to fully benefit from their contracts, have a good insurance policy and in short flourish in the practice of professional basketball. The other challenge is that of the fight against doping and especially the strengthening of the capacities of all actors (Referees, coaches, OTM)."
"For next season, we will fight to make the pro League more attractive and as a matter of fact, we have already announced during our last meeting on May 13, 2022, with the leaders of professional teams, that the number of foreign players will increase to 6, the amount of the transfer of a pro player is no longer limiting, there will be a transfer window in the middle of the season. These are all measures that we are eager to see implemented," he revealed
Olawale Kanga, a director of Sports Marketing Services Consultant, in his view, noted that accolades must go to the country's president, sports minister and president of the Benin Basketball Federation to see the fruition of professionalism in Benin basketball.
"Before now, ASPAC was the only team that could pay well but that is no longer the case, Things have changed for the better as all teams are competing for who will pay better and the players are better for it and looking forward to playing competitively on the international stage like the Basketball African League."