B. League Chairman Shinji Shimada says calling up players to the national team for the FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers during the B. League season has created a difficult situation for both his league and the Japan Basketball Association (JBA).
The national team had been preparing to compete in the final window of qualifiers in Doha this week, before the event was canceled at the last minute due to a rise in COVID-19 cases in Qatar.
The JBA, B. League and national team head coach Julio Lamas had been scrambling to put together a team to take to Doha, a process that involved clearing many hurdles.
A major concern was that call-ups would be taking place in the middle of the season and that players would have to quarantine for two weeks upon returning to Japan. Players selected for the qualifiers would have likely missed nearly a month of the B. League season.
Eventually a compromise was struck where the national team would only call up one player from a single club. Some fans, however, objected, calling the process unfair as some teams would be adversely affected while those without national team players could operate as usual.
Skipping the qualifiers — when they resume — altogether also is not an option, as Shimada has said FIBA has notified the JBA that participating nations would be subject to punishment if they did not play.
FIBA has already announced China, South Korea and Taiwan will be sanctioned for failing to participate in the second window in November 2020.
“We asked the JBA to consider what’s fair for the clubs and they came up with the idea of only selecting one player from each team,” Shimada said during an online news conference Tuesday.
According to Shimada, the compromise did not make negotiations any easier, as call-ups would still take place during the season and there were also concerns about the international travel required.
“Running the clubs is already tough (because of the pandemic) and the teams wouldn’t be able to conduct business if we paused the season,” said Shimada, who is also a JBA vice president.
Players are obliged to participate in national team activities and the B. League could have chosen to punish those who refused to travel to Doha. The league, however, was not planning to enforce the rule in light of the unprecedented situation the pandemic has created.
“Some players have families and children and may have been thinking about how they would be compensated if they were infected or were worried about their conditioning or the situation in Qatar,” Shimada said. “We were authorized to punish those who didn’t want to go, but we couldn’t really blame them or their clubs if they didn’t participate.”
Shimada says its imperative Japan field a team during the final window, as Asian qualifying also impacts future events such as the 2023 FIBA World Cup and 2024 Paris Olympics, with each event acting as a partial qualifier for those down the line.
Additionally, Japan is scheduled to host games during the 2023 World Cup — there will also be games in Indonesia and the Philippines — and has already been given a spot as a host nation. Shimada hinted Japan could lose its spot if it didn’t follow FIBA’s guidelines.
Noting that FIBA is still monitoring the JBA, which was suspended in 2015, the 50-year-old Shimada said the national governing body did not want to risk further discipline.
“We could’ve said ‘No’ (about going to Doha) but other countries had already been sanctioned and we could’ve had our path blocked in the future,” he said. “So the JBA made the difficult decision to send the team.”
Nations that were scheduled to compete in Doha have been notified that FIBA is working to determine new dates and locations for the qualifying window. Shimada said that with the B. League approaching the latter stages of its season, he would suggest that the qualifiers resume after the B. League campaign, which is scheduled to end late April.
“It’s already tough but it’ll be even tougher when (qualifying) resumes,” the former Jets president said. “So we are telling (FIBA) to find a way to start after the regular season.”
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.