Abdulsatar Al-Hamdani, the head of the Basketball Union, to the Yemen Times: “To get rid of forgery, we put off the youth basketball tournam
To discuss problems facing the sport in Yemen and the possibility of improving it, the Yemen Times met Abdulsatar Al-Hamdani, the newly elected head of the Basketball Union.
You were recently elected head of the Basketball Union, as the successor of Al-Khader Al-Azani. What made you nominate yourself?
Actually, the temporary committee marginalized the talented basketball players. For example, I have been marginalized, and I wasn’t contacted at a time when the sport needs improving.
We presented several programs and ideas to enhance the situation of basketball games, but no one paid attention to us. Therefore, I nominated myself to be a head of the union to develop the situation.
What will you do exactly?
I will do my best, with the existing potential, to fix the previous mistakes so that they won’t happen again in the future.
Frankly, did you expect you would win?
Actually, I started my election campaign two years ago. Al-Azani has been the head of the union for 17 years, and everyone knew only of him.
Therefore, I wanted to take part in the election and to change the situation. During the two years, I explained the problems basketball faces, and I was exposed to criticism.
Who supported you officially?
What are the obstacles you faced during the election campaign?
During my campaign, it was said that I’m an enemy of success. I wondered where the success was with no age categories for players and no tournaments.
The preparatory committee paid more attention to travelling abroad but ignored their work inside Yemen. In my campaign, I focused more on the internal situation, and many people were convinced with what I said. They knew that I’m the suitable people who can stand against Al-Azani.
Al-Azani filed a complaint, challenging the validity of the elections and considered it illegal.
He filed a case in the Administrative Court and said the elections committee intended to decrease the number of clubs participating in the General Assembly and consequently decreased his votes.
However, the truth is that Al-Azani imposed himself on the committee in spite of not being nominated. Moreover, he didn’t give a financial record, so the committee had to transfer the case to the Supreme National Authority for Combating Corruption.
You have yet to take office. Why?
In fact, after the elections, I requested the Ministry of Youth and Sport to allow us to start working in the official office, but Al-Azani refused to leave office—as if there is no law in this country.
I waited for three days after the elections and then the sport minister gave me permission to open a new office, and a week later I did.
Who is responsible for prosecuting those who rebel over election results?
Actually, there is a good decision, which states that the case is transferred to the Public Funds Court. I think if this issue continues, it will be transferred to a trial and corruption case and then they have to prove that they aren’t guilty.
What about the role of the Ministry of Youth and Sport?
The ministry respects Al-Azani and wants him to leave office in a friendly manner. It is for the minister to say how long the ministry will wait until Al-Azani leaves.
What about the new Basketball Union’s board of directors?
We, in the new Basketball Union, are all basketball players and international referees, and I don’t face any problems. I also have 11 basketball clubs supporting me.
Do you think that elections will be the right way to amend the imbalance in basketball, or will the situation continue as it is?
I think it is a right start and all clubs deal with us positively and they respect all orders we give.
You mentioned that the sport of basketball has deteriorated in the past few years. What do you think are the reasons?
In fact, there are several reasons, including continuous delay of activities, putting off activities of the players and age categories. I think the main reason is the previous leadership, which bears all responsibility.
It is said that the reason is that the basketball teams boycott the championship.
The boycott came because of the temporary committee’s procedures. I assure that the committee is responsible for the boycott.
Why doesn’t the Ministry of Sport intervene to amend the imbalance?
The ministry fulfills its duties in paying all financial allocations for the unions. The responsible is the temporary committee’s and not the ministry’s.
It is said that not giving allocations to the teams is one reason that caused deterioration in basketball. What do you think?
It is true. There is difficulty in getting the financial allocations, which the ministry pays. It is known that the ministries of sport worldwide don’t give money for sports unions because the unions should look for other sources by way of their relations with businessmen. But in Yemen, the Ministry of Sport pays money for the unions.
How do you think that this halt affected basketball?
It affected it negatively. Frankly, when I took hold of the union, it was a mess. There were no age categories for players, and there were no players under 16 years old; therefore, we had to cancel the participation of our national team in the youth championship scheduled in Jordan on Sept. 25.
Who bears responsibility for that?
I respect Al-Azani, the previous head of the union, and I have no personal problem with him. But he bears all responsibility, and he is responsible for the failure of basketball.
He is also responsible for ignoring people who were the cause of his success at the beginning.
Yemen’s national basketball team has lost many times in international participation. Why?
The main reason is forgery.
You mean forgery on the teenagers’ team?
I mean forgery in players’ ages. Giving wrong ages of players from the very beginning affects them when they are senior players. Had they started a right beginning, we would have participated and won in international championships.
You said forgery. How did that happen?
What happened in the previous period is that excellent players, from universities for example, were brought to participate in championships without paying attention to their age.
You mean that players’ ages aren’t checked?
Unfortunately yes. The Asian Basketball Union counts on the documents given by the union in Yemen only.
It is said that Yemen’s teenagers’ team qualified for the Asia Cup finals and then it was denied. What is the truth?
The truth is that the team wasn’t qualified for the finals because it lost four times and won only once in the eight group.
Why did previous leadership suggest otherwise?
It was a lie, and I personally contacted the secretary general of the Asian Basketball Union, and he said there is no fourth place as the previous leadership said.
Why did you put off the youth championship this year?
We canceled it to give players more chance. When only 20 players out of 40 in a team are allowed to register, the game will spread to other clubs. We will follow this policy for the coming two years.
To get rid of forgery, we put off the youth tournament because only players less than 16 years old are allowed to participate. We want to start a new and true beginning.
Do you plan to host an international championship?
No. I firmly oppose that because Yemen loses huge sums of money in hosting championships while our team doesn’t qualify for the finals and doesn’t win. I want to spend this money in qualifying the players.
What encouraged you to be a basketball player?
I started as a soccer player at the beginning and then as a goaltender at Al-Zohra club. I always used to lose matches. After that, an Egyptian teacher, named Sameer Abdulfatah, convinced me to try basketball, and I found out it was suitable for me.
What is the first club you played for?
I started playing in Al-Yarmook club, and people there took care of me and helped me a lot.
What will you do to improve basketball in the future?
We announced the start of the tournament as Oct. 15 and started to register the teams. All the teams are responsive.
We also have a tournament called the Categorical Tournament and include all the teams that have been marginalized by the temporary committee. Moreover, we facilitated their participation and provided them with balls and players for teams.