BAMAKO - People from Mali have a reputation for being blessed with good height, but the country is yet to leave a lasting footprint in the sand of times as far as men's basketball is concerned.
Jean Claude Sidibe, the Mali Minister of Sports and former President of the Federation of Mali Basketball (FMBB), has indicated he will not rest until this is achieved.
In three and a half years, Mali has won nine African Cups, in all categories except for the men. To forestall the downward slide, Sidibe is working assiduously to ensure that more Malian kids are off the streets and playing basketball.
“The Mali government through the ministry of sports has reached an agreement with the Qatar government to build six mini-gyms in six zones of the country. The essence of it is to bring facility closer to the children to enable them have where to train.”
“Malians are passionate about basketball to a fault. You can’t imagine how much attention junior basketball attracts with capacity crowd in attendance. The only way to sustain that passion is to build more courts so that our juniors will always be replenished as they grow into the senior teams in men and women,” he explained.
“The courts we’re building in the six zones will be fitted with all the facilities that are necessary, and will reduce the trouble of playing outdoors. This is so that they get used to playing on a proper surface and get used to it.”
On the first-leg of the FIBA World Cup 2019 African Qualifiers in Group B, Sidibe notes that their facilities are of standard and needs to be put to use.
"Of course, it was our hope that Mali would do well in this first window but that notwithstanding, we look forward to a positive outing during the second window. Our team is young and made up of mostly new players who are yet to understand themselves, it is hoped that by the time they converge in June-July, they will be a better team,” he said.
Speaking on his challenges as sports minister, Sidibe noted that he has a lot to do to help reposition sports in Mali.
“The task is not an easy one given that I am not only focused on basketball but all sports. I have a task of resolving the issue of soccer but basketball remains a major focus because government demands that I win trophies for them. I’m working hard to make it work and I hope that the jinx in senior men basketball will be broken soon with a ticket to the World Cup in China 2019.”