Argentina has developed a proud, respected basketball tradition over the past 20 years, with Manuel Ginobili and Luis Scola becoming the face of the game in the country. But amid increasing clarity of just how mismanaged the national team has been in recent years, Scola is airing his grievances loudly, and says he may boycott the upcoming FIBA World Cup in Spain if progress to correct the deficiencies doesn’t begin soon.
Until recently, the question looming around the Argentine team was whether Ginobili would play. Now, however, with Scola, the team’s captain, throwing his weight around, that has become a minor concern.
All eyes are now on the reported “economic crisis” in the Confederación Argentina de Basquetbol (CABB), which oversees the national team as its equivalent of USA Basketball. The pressure on Argentina basketball is likely only increasing, with Scola getting the full the support of countrymen Ginobili (“Well said”), Pablo Prigioni (“”The statements from Scola are the feelings and thoughts of all of us,” and Andres Nocioni (“Argentine Basketball doesn’t deserve this”).
- What makes you talk about this debacle now, only a month away from a major world tournament?
– I’m angry because the leaders put us in this distressing situation. It’s good that we’re talking about this more than whether Ginobili will play. If a drastic change isn’t made, everything is going to end in the worst way. The World Cup is far less important than this. What do I care if we’re world champions and in two years CABB melts and we lose our affiliation with FIBA? It wouldn’t help us at all to win a World Cup.
- How long will you all wait for a solution?
– We can push and protest, but we’re players without political ambitions and we don’t have the power to direct the CABB. All we can do is choose to be complicit or not. For many years, I had no idea what was happening. A couple of years ago I started to see certain things, but wasn’t sure. Today I have no doubt. Once one knows and continues to participate, you’re complicit. We wasted what we had achieved. We have to fight for transparency, but if this becomes a circus, I can’t play anymore. I refuse to be an accomplice.
- Will you reconsider your placement on the team?
– I can reconsider if this keeps happening. If we close our eyes and we look forward, it will continue to happen. If you are honest, Argentine basketball would have to fly and take a giant leap. If it continues down this path, what is the point of representing CABB? And if we can’t get transparency, honesty or even an audit …
- Will you not play in the World Cup?
– We’ll have to make a decision. We’ll see what we find out tomorrow (today), we’ll see if there is a meeting with these leaders. Although this is something that is years in the making. CABB does nothing for me. I do not want to be complicit in something so shady. That is my right. If I do not play in the World Cup it will be because of horrendous management. And it will be a disappointment, because I’ve been on the senior national team for 15 years; it’s a great time and I love being on it.
- If you or the rest of the team don’t play in the World Cup, what will people say …
– I don’t care. I don’t think anyone can judge my decision. Decisions are not always good. If we qualify for the World Cup and if there are fans of the team, it’s because I contributed my bit. Isn’t it disingenuous to all the fans if those of us who have the ability to do something to make the situation get fixed, do nothing and everything disappears? Passively standing by while something so grotesque happens would be abandoning the people.
- Why did this issue not explode before?
– A while ago we asked [former CABB President] German Vaccaro to step aside because he opposed an audit. We had no answer. We are players and we don’t want to take over the CABB. The leaders have toyed with our character. Every year we bring exposure for the national team for two months and then we go to the clubs. Then we lose weight in the 10 following months. The leaders have weathered the storm every year knowing that everything would calm down. This year, the difference is that we are very strong and will not allow them to block our involvement.
- When did this crisis rise to the level of scandal?
– The breaking point was last year, but we’re still in the same spot. The only thing different was that Vaccaro left.
- Did you talk to [National Secretary of Sport] Carlos Espínola to get Vaccaro to resign?
– Since Germán did not respond, the final step was to talk with the Minister of Sport, but it was long overdue. The Secretary and the CENARD [the National Center of High Performance Athletics sports complex] deal with subsidies, scholarships and places to work. They were aware of the irregularities.
- Camau [Espínola] asked Vaccaro to resign?
– They came with us to ask him to step aside. We thought that alone we wouldn’t get a response.
- In June you requested an audit, transparency and professionalism in a letter to the National Federations and they didn’t answer you…
– That was a long time coming. Last year, before the Stankovic Cup, we asked Vaccaro behind closed doors to tell us about the economic problems. He put us off a thousand ways. We demanded very little — we didn’t ask them to fundraise or to build stadiums. We asked them to be honest and that no one should take money that isn’t theirs. I don’t understand why we can’t ask the reasons for the debacle. Honesty is the least that can be asked of a nonprofit entity, as is the CABB. Someone has to say why CABB owes so much money nationwide. These same leaders should be striving for an external, serious audit.
- The change in leadership was simply a change of names?
– You can’t blame just one person. Anyone is guilty who does something wrong — and then there are those who are guilty by omission for allowing these things to happen. Why have a treasurer, a vice president or spokespeople if they couldn’t even avoid this kind of situation? What were the new people doing when the previous situation was going on? The situation is critical to the fullest. The audit will show what happened. The situation worsened because of a giant on the inside. I don’t understand why the president sat around watching. The insiders were fierce, without thinking of their responsibilities nor our orders. We tried to get [new CABB President] Ricardo Siri to do the audit and he did not. We tried to postpone the elections for the restructuring of the CABB and were ignored. Everyone blames someone else and we don’t know how we got to this point.
The 2014 FIBA World Cup (formerly called the World Championship) begins on August 30, when Argentina faces Puerto Rico.