Super Ward saved basketball from oblivion
- corporate community must be applauded
By Edison Jefford
The buzz, the hype, the conversations and most of all, the atmosphere that has so far been emanating from the Cliff Anderson Sports Hall in the Mackeson National Super Ward Basketball Championship have saved the sport from oblivion.
The mega basketball tournament will enter its final stage this weekend, but what preceded was weeks of quality basketball influenced by the understanding that Corporate Guyana has come up in a major way for a dying sport.
What is more significant is the fact that the Georgetown Amateur Basketball Association (GABA) understood their vision for the tournament and was not inclined to host it short of major sponsorship, which is why it took months of deliberation to finally bring the competition to fruition.
When the National Super Ward Basketball tournament was first mulled last November, it did not attract the kind of corporate support the Georgetown sub-association want it to attract, and as such the association was not keen on hosting the event.
The GABA went back to the negotiation table with its sponsors and managed to convince two of Guyana’s leading corporate giants, GT&T and Ansa McAl to support what has easily become the biggest basketball event in the New Millennium.
At this point in this observation, kudos must be dual; one, the GABA must be applauded for its insistence in hosting quality basketball with major corporate support, and two, both GT&T and Ansa McAl must be congratulated for their support.
Basketball is a global sport that ranks in the top five of popularity, but in Guyana, the lack of funding for programmes and events had stymied the growth and development of a discipline that should be given priority in terms of support.
A couple of factors had led to that underdevelopment of basketball, which reached its highest point in 2007 when all the local players on the national senior team were denied United States visas that would have allowed them to compete at the Caribbean Championship in Puerto Rico.
Firstly, the corporate community must be sure that it would get its investment worth, meaning there must be some clause in the approach that guarantees returns for the investors and not only the promoters, which is often the case.
Basketball administrators had allowed too many private promoters to dominate the sport with programmes aimed at gaining personal proceeds rather than the advancement of one of the only disciplines that attracts general participation.
The sport is not like one of those disciplines that specific social and cultural groups dominate. Basketball in Guyana is therefore racially non-hegemonic.
Secondly, administrators had proven with projects that their interest is more economic-based as opposed to developmental. These two factors corrupted a sport that has major potential of improving sports tourism in Guyana.
Proper management of basketball would mean that administrators can bid to host regional and international events. However, it would be improbable to make such attempts without first having local basketball in its rightful place.
The follow-up to this event would determine whether the momentum was a real fire or just a flicker in a forest. The face of basketball in Georgetown has certainly changed with the Mackeson Super Ward and that should continue.
The elections have passed, new Presidents of basketball associations in Linden, Georgetown and the national federation have come to the fore and the outcome has been a group of people who wants to move the sport forward.
Linden have kept their development at the junior level in tact with Under-15, Under-17, Under-19 and Under-21 tournaments while Georgetown has had its Leagues, following the National Super Ward Basketball Championship.
The National Federation has promised more international exposure for its national teams and it seems as though, generally, basketball is being hauled from the abyss. A revival of the sport could not have come at a better time than now.
The buzz of the Super Ward and the conversations of who is the best ward in Guyana have reached social networks such as Facebook and sports clubs across Guyana, which would not have been possible with returning the fan base.
The corporate backing for the event has allowed elements such as branding to be a major part of the venue. The face lift attracts young people and enthusiasts, some of whom have never seen cheerleaders at local basketball games.
The point is that sports cannot develop without the necessary corporate support and basketball had gone down because of the lack of such, but this year two major companies decided to back basketball and the results have been overwhelming.
It will be interesting to see what this weekend’s Mackeson Super Ward Basketball final and the subsequent future of the sport in Guyana produces. The optimism should serve administrators notice that they have a franchise in their hands.