Stories by Joe Apu
Benin may not have qualified for the FIBA AfroBasket 2017 Final Round, but the team etched its name in the sand of times due to head coach Brigitte Affidehome Tonon.
While Tonon’s name may not be popular in basketball circles, she surely has her path clearly laid out as the first female head coach of a men’s national team on the African continent, after making her introduction during the FIBA AfroBasket 2017 Group C Qualifiers.
There have been cases of female coaches taking charge of men’s teams at club level and winning national titles.
But it is Tonon who no doubt has made history in coaching by this singular feat. It shouldn’t come as a surprise given that her father, Pierre Coffi Tonon, has a rich basketball history.
He is the current Secretary General of the Federation Beninoise de Basketball (FBBB) and has been a respected technical hand in coaching, refereeing and a FIBA match commissioner.
‘’I see them as players that I am working with and nothing more.’’- Tonon
By virtue of having a parent with such an impressive basketball CV, Tonon learnt on and off the court and has contributed immensely to her growth in the game coupled with her professional career as a coaches’ instructor at the Benin Sports Institute in Porto Novo.
Early this month, she made a statement to announce her arrival into the exclusive world and men dominated coaching field by leading Benin men’s team to a historic 69-61 win over Burkina Faso.
While she and her wards travelled to Abidjan for the second leg of the regional qualifier with a 1-1 record, they failed to win any game in the Ivoirian city.
Tonon insists the experience was worth it. Talking to FIBA.com in Porto Novo’s Hall Des Arts where the first leg of the regional qualifier took place, she shed light on the experience.
She does not see herself as a woman when she is coaching a men’s team. “I see them as players that I am working with and nothing more,” she said. “That they are men and I am a woman does not bother me. Coaching is coaching and there’s no two ways about it. I just do my job and that’s it. I don’t allow myself to be intimidated by them.
“As much as possible, I try to relate with them for us to get the job done and that’s where it ends. I respect them and they accord me the same.”
Tonon’s assistant, Basile Comlan Klegou has no problems working with a woman as the head coach. For him, it’s all in the service of the nation.
“I have a good working relationship with her and I give her the cooperation she needs, my observations during practices and games. The important thing for me is that I am rendering service to my country and the capacity I serve doesn’t matter.”
Romaric Quenum, the captain of the Benin men’s national team, spoke glowingly about his head coach. “It was my first time to play on a team with a woman in charge of the team but I must say that she did not do badly,” Quenum explained. “She likes taking charge just like any male coach would, and always wants the best for the team. It was nice working with her on the team.”
FIBA Africa charges D’ Tigers, others on 2019 World Cup
The FIBA Africa Central Board during the week in Abidjan held its annual meeting in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire during which time it reviewed the activities that took place in 2016 and approved programs for 2017.
The Board launched an urgent appeal to the national teams that have achieved qualification for the Final Round of FIBA AfroBasket 2017 and those that will qualify in the coming days to register on FIBA’s platform dedicated to the African Qualifiers for the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019.
It recommended a number of initiatives to be implemented in the coming days for a better organisation of FIBA AfroBasket 2017 in the Republic of Congo as well as gave the green light to the Executive Committee of FIBA Africa to allocate the wild cards for FIBA AfroBasket 2017.
The Board also provided guidance with regards to the challenges of developing competitions, devising training programs as well as restructuring national federations.
It indicated that a rethink is needed in order to have a better balance of the number of places on offer per group for the continental competitions including the FIBA AfroBasket, FIBA Women’s AfroBasket, FIBA Africa Champions Cup, FIBA Africa Champions Cup and the Youth competitions and issued a mandate to FIBA Africa Zone 2 for the organisation of qualifiers for youths and clubs competitions.
All Sub-Zone Presidents were charged to organise workshops on the FIBA’s New Competition System for their National Federations members, which should take place alongside FIBA Africa’s Mid-term Congress taking place in Bamako, Mali on April 20-21.
The Board praised the excitement and interest around the FIBA AfroBasket 2017 Qualifiers, particularly in Zone 2, and recommended that all necessary measures be taken in order to achieve a better coverage of the continental competitions in the future.
FIBA Africa’s National Federations were also encouraged to become more involved in the promotion of 3×3, by signing up and participating in the discipline’s planned competitions on the continent in 2017.
The Board announced the creation of a 3×3 national team tournament for U18 men’s and women’s national teams. The winners will receive a trophy that will bear the name of the late Salamatou Maiga.
In the area of Support for National Federations Development, the Board invited the Sub-Zones and National Federations to get involved in the distribution of materials and equipment and instructed the National Federations Commission to help Federations identify five of their developmental priorities and tasked FIBA Africa’s coaches and referees instructors to become more involved in the organisation of training in their respective National Federations.
Ndoye excited over W/Cup 2019 Qualifiers
In September of last year, Maleye Ndoye outlined how FIBA’s Competition System 2017+ will be of great benefit for fans and for basketball in Senegal. Last week, the 36-year-old – who had never played in front of his fellow Senegalese on home soil – got a glimpse of what lies in store come November.
The new system will only come into effect at the end of the year, but Ndoye got to experience playing at home for the first time in his career in last week’s FIBA Africa Zone 2 Qualifier for FIBA AfroBasket 2017.
The experience only served to confirm what he expressed six months ago in stressing the importance of playing at home. “Can you imagine how crazy it’s going to be to play in front of our fans?” he said at the time.
Thousands of Senegalese fans flocked into Stade Marius Ndiaye in Dakar to watch their heroes
As Senegal hosted Guinea, Cape Verde and Mali for the second leg of the regional qualifier at Stade Marius Ndiaye in the capital city of Dakar, local fans turned up in big numbers and the team responded accordingly.
Senegal rallied from a 1-2 record from the first leg in Bamako, Mali to close the qualifier with a commanding 4-2 success in Dakar and, more importantly, they secured their place in the Final Round of this year’s FIBA AfroBasket.
After helping Senegal achieve qualification for FIBA Africa’s flagship event, he explained why the new system matters.
“I am 37 years old and it’s my first time to play in front of my home fans. That’s a great experience. The new competition system is a good initiative,” said the 2.03m forward who has played in seven consecutive FIBA AfroBasket events. “I saw very happy people cheering us on and I am sure that this will definitely help grow the game in our country.”