Zamalek’s BAL win a big boost for Egyptian basketball

Zamalek on top of the world

THE inaugural Basketball Africa League (BAL) tournament was a resounding success. After two weeks of pulsating action, Egyptian giants Zamalek were crowned champions.

Following the 76-63 win on Sunday over their fellow North Africans, US Monastir of Tunisia, Zamalek’s Spanish coach Agustin Julbe Bosch said while the victory was for the club and its fans, he hopes it will boost the image of the game in Egypt.

“I think winning the first edition of the BAL is awesome for Zamalek and its fans. For Egyptian basketball, I hope this is a boost for the league. For the kids playing in youth programs and those that followed Zamalek’s progress, I hope we represented a balance of what winning basketball is,” said Bosch at the post-game conference on Sunday.

Although Zamalek finished unbeaten in the tournament, they did not enjoy the favourites status that Monastir enjoyed. Bosch believes both the quarter and semi-final games showed that they had learnt how to manage themselves in high-pressure situations.

“The last two games showed us how to chew the games. We don’t focus too much on the errors we make during the games. We also have to find the right moment to strike,” said Bosch. “I think we consistently got better with each game.



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Zamalek’s Puerto Rican-born point guard and winner of the tournament’s Hakeem Olajuwon Most Valuable Player trophy, Walter Hodge, acknowledged that they were not the quickest out of the starting blocks. As the game progressed, the team were able to figure things out. Hodge believes they presented a different kettle of fish for Zamalek.

“We always talk. We know we always start slow. You saw that in our last two games,” said Hodge. “We knew as the game went on, we would do the right things. I don’t think Monastir have faced a team like ours in the tournament. A team that never gives up and is able to put up a fight.

Walter Hodge
Zamalek’s Walter Hodge celebrates winning the BAL MVP trophy. Picture: FIBA

“They are a great team, but they have never faced a team like us. I think that was hard for them.”

Monastir coach Mounir Ben Slimane believes his team’s capitulation happened in the third quarter. The Tunisians lost their rhythm at that point and could not find their way back into the game.

“Before the game started, I don’t think the pressure was there. The breaking point was in the mid-third quarter when we could not score. That’s when we started feeling the pressure. Before the game started, there was no pressure. There was mutual respect for the opposition. We knew Zamalek was going to be a tough opponent. What we did not expect was low scoring averages,” said Ben Slimane.

For a year, Zamalek will carry the bragging rights as kings of African basketball. They quietly went about their business and rose to the occasion when the situation called for them to step up.

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