This piece was published in Sportskeeda
Indian basketball appears to have hit a ‘serious roadblock! It isn’t a great advertisement for the sport in the country when competitions at various levels have been put in cold storage with the Basketball Federation of India (BFI) being gripped by a wave of uncertainty over the past few months with two factions claiming their right to run the affairs of BFI.
Two factions staged two separate annual general meetings in Bengaluru and Pune last March with the Bengaluru faction electing Karnataka Basketball Association (KBA) President K Govindraj as its President and the Pune faction electing BJP MP and Maharastra Basketball Association President Poonam Mahajan – daughter for late Pramod Mahajan as its president. The Mahajan faction had elected former BFI CEO Roopam Sharma as its secretary.
It is learnt that the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) had also sent its observer for the faction which elected Poonam Mahajan as its President. What is lending more confusion to the credibility of both factions is the fact that the world body – FIBA – has recognised the faction headed by K Govindraj, while the IOA is believed to have recognised the Mahajan faction.
The bickering between the two factions has clearly affected the Indian basketballers. There was even talk that the BFI-faction headed by Poonam Mahajan was lining up plans to hold a Youth Championship while the K Govindraj-headed faction is keen to host the qualifiers for the FIBA Asian Championships. The desire of both factions to hold events is aimed of sending out a clear that each faction have the legitimate right to run BFI.
Who will replace Scott Flemming?Now with the Sports Ministry slapping a ban on holding any events unless it recognises one of the two factions, it remains to be seen how these two factions are going to run their affairs in future. It may be recalled that Indian basketball had scaled a ‘new high’ last year when it stunned mighty China in the FIBA Asian Championship under American Scott Fleming. Flemming has taken Indian men’s basketball forward with commendable performances at the FIBA Asia Championship, the Lusofonia Games, the FIBA Asia Cup, and Asian Games.
Fleming quit his job last month and the contracts of India’s women's team head Coach Francisco Garcia and Strength and Conditioning Coach Tommy Heffelfinger were not extended, which means BFI has to find replacements for them. The job to find replacements for men and women team coaches is huge but who is going to pick their successors since the two factions are demanding their right to run BFI.
One hopes that the Sports Ministry acts swiftly and at least puts in place an ad-hoc committee so that basketball does not suffer anymore and new coaches are picked at the earliest. It does not look like a compromise can be worked between the two factions, resulting in a united front – it’s too much to expect at this juncture and whatever the Sports Ministry does it must be in the best interests of Indian basketball. “It is up to the Ministry to take a call. Hopefully, something positive will emerge and basketball gets a move-on,” said a former BFI official.