February 3, 2016

BFI-IOA spat: FIBA de-recognizes basketball at South Asian Games, tells teams not to participate

Welcome to the latest chapter of the a Dante's Inferno, a descent through the nine circles into Hell, otherwise known as the harrowing drama plaguing the current state of Indian Basketball.

The newest step backward? After the ongoing spat between the Basketball Federation of India (BFI) and the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) regarding which Indian team (if any) will participate in the 2016 South Asian Games (SAG) starting this week, FIBA - the international basketball association - have decided to de-recognize the basketball tournament at the SAG altogether. On Tuesday, FIBA sent a letter to all South Asian countries to refrain from sending teams to the Games' basketball event.

The letter, signed by FIBA's Secretary-General Patrick Baumann and dated on February 2nd, was sent to all national federations whose nationals teams are due to participate in the basketball competitions (Men and Women) at the South Asian Games, which are slated to be held in India (Guwahati and Shillong) from February 5-16, 2016. The national federations are Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Maldives, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and of course, India itself. It was titled URGENT - Non-recognition of South-Asian Games basketball tournament to be held from 5 to 16 February 2016. The basketball tournament at the Games is scheduled to be held from February 11-16.

In the letter, FIBA writes:

"Please be informed that due to unacceptable interference by the Indian Olympic Association in the affairs of the Basketball Federation of India, FIBA is unable to recognise and endorse the basketball competitions of the South-Asian Games scheduled to take place form 11 to 16 February 2016.
"The Indian Olympic Association as well as the State authorities in charge of sport in India continuously fail to recognise the Basketball Federation of India duly recognised by FIBA despite the several correspondences issued by FIBA to all relevant authorities in India. Accordingly, the Indian Olympic Association has granted to an Ad-hoc Committee the authority to select the Indian national teams due to participate in this event in complete violation of FIBA's decisions and directions.
"As a result, the matter was discussed at the last FIBA Asia Board meeting held on 30 January 2015. During this meeting, the decision was unanimously taken to condemn the actions undertaken by the Indian authorities in charge of sport which in essence deprive the national basketball federation of India duly recognised by FIBA the statutory right to select and manage its national teams.
In view of the seriousness of this matter, you are therefore requested to refrain from sending any of your national teams to this basketball event."

The FIBA warning was forthcoming considering recent developments. As many of you who closely follow Indian basketball may already know, there is a major rift between two parties competing for the helm of the BFI. Due to the fact that they follow BFI constitution in forming their committee, FIBA recognized the side led by President K. Govindraj - Team Govindraj - and they have since been responsible for hosting India's recent national championships and sending teams abroad for international tournaments. But the IOA hasn't recognized Team Govindraj after appeals by the competing group led by President Poonam Mahajan: Team Mahajan. All this confusion has meant that several Indian players have been forced to choose their loyalties between one side or the other and robbed Indian basketball of its necessary cohesion.

The IOA, in consultation with the Government of India, are behind the organizing and executive committee for the planning and management of the 2016 South Asian Games. But because of the broken relationship between the IOA and the BFI, there was confusion about the trials and formation of the Indian basketball teams in the Men's or Women's divisions for the SAG. The IOA announced that they will be holding trials for the Indian teams on Saturday, January 30th, at the Indira Gandhi Stadium in New Delhi. But the BFI's Team Govindraj 'shot off a warning' on SportStar at the IOA for interfering with the basketball selection trials, which are being held by the IOA outside of their legal jurisdiction. Govindraj claimed to SportStar that Team India trials have already been concluded and the team chosen, but there has been no word released (yet) of which players will actually be representing India at the SAG.

So here we are, with a drama full of characters worthy of Shakespearean or Premchandic dramas. The IOA is organizing the SAG and sending basketball teams not approved by the BFI. Meanwhile, FIBA is telling no basketball teams to go to the SAG. I would hate to be the talented Indian and South Asian basketball player - so worthy of respect and support, so thirsty for international exposure - stuck in the middle of these fighting factions.

India is the reigning runner-up of the SAG basketball trophy (we lost in 2010 in the Final to Afghanistan in Dhaka). On February 11, the 2016 SAG's basketball tournament is due to start. Will anyone show up?

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