The will of Cameroonian Joël Embiid to obtain French citizenship, information provided by our colleagues from RMC, has not failed to revive the debate on this topic within the Blues. Malik Daho, former Ivorian international, former coach of Côte d’Ivoire, journalist and commentator for Canal + and the African Basketball League, talks about these controversies and issues in France and Africa for this news.
TV5MONDE: On Monday, we learned from our colleagues at RMC that the Cameroonian Ministry of Interior, Joel Embiid, has initiated the naturalization procedure. Which, of course, should lead him to play for the French basketball team. Rumors and controversies about this purpose have been circulating for years. What’s new in This File today?
Daho owner: There is nothing new under the sun, because he spoke of it four or five years ago. At the time, this caused an uproar, including within the France team. Now, I should be very happy that Joel Embiid and Pascal Siakam, as an African and a pan-Africanist, are playing for the Cameroon national team.
Now, it is a life choice, i.e. a personal choice. From there, even if I do not agree with this choice, I understand and accept it. It’s a shame he can’t play with the Indomitable Lions, and that he can, if he qualifies, because there are FIBA regulations that should not be ignored, developing within the basketball blues.
TV5MONDE: Pourquoi est-ce que l’éventuelle venue de Joel Embiid au sein de l’équipe de France de basket – les exemples de ce type sont légion – crée des crispations ou des réactions comme celle d’Evan Fournier qui a déclaré sur Twitter that : ” For me, playing for a country you don’t have relationships with is annoying »? Do France CEOs fear this NBA star will overwhelm them?
Daho owner: Team France is a group of friends. Today, although Tony Parker no longer plays, he still keeps an eye on her. Boris Diao is the manager of this France team. It’s a group of friends, friends who grew up together, went to INSEP [L’Institut national du sport, de l’expertise et de la performance à Paris, NDLR]who have created a circle shape, where you have to show your credentials before entering.
Today, the presence of Joel Embiid with all the aura he possesses, with all the fame and fame and fortune he also brews, we must not hide, can make her a shadow. It is true that there is Rudy Goubert. But Joel Embiid and Rudi Joubert, I wouldn’t put them on an equal footing. So there could be a form of hostility that might be a bit selfish for me. Because if we look closely, the French team with Joel Embiid is a team capable of winning the gold in Paris 2024.
TV5 Monde: According to our colleagues from the French sports daily L’Equipe, Boris Diao, general manager of the French basketball team, said: “ I know that he personally started the process of obtaining citizenship and that after that he would like to play for France. Does this mean that Boris Diao, like some executives in Team France, agrees with this possibility?
Daho owner: When that first cry was three or four years ago, Boris Diau was the only one who had a different opinion. Because, throughout his career, he has always preferred teamwork. Today as a leader he has not changed one iota. What matters to him is the victory of the France team. And if Joel Embiid can allow Team France, which is still a two-time Olympic medalist, to become an Olympic champion at least once, he has to say he’s a banker. I totally understand Boris Diao.
TV5MONDE: We know how connected you are to Côte d’Ivoire, your country of origin, and to the African continent in general. Is the Cameroonian basketball team able to play Joel Embiid and Pascal Siakam with all the necessary guarantees, especially in terms of insurance? And in your opinion, Joel Embiid – who announced he could play for Cameroon – should have preferred his African fibres?
Daho owner: I’ll take Gorgui Dieng’s example – [depuis mars 2021, il évolue au sein des Hawks d’Atlanta, NDLR] Who also plays in the NBA? When he manages to join the Senegalese national team, he doesn’t hesitate, even if it means paying insurance out of his own pocket. Because today our associations do not have the means to pay this type of insurance to NBA players, because it is very expensive. Gorgui Dieng makes this personal effort to show his connection to his country. Senegal is also involved.
Now, at the Cameroon Basketball Federation level, I find that he is doing well, with the means he has. And we must pay tribute to President Samuel Tendung Ndoko, and Yves Tsala, President of the Center’s Regional Association. They are really striving to bring Cameroonian basketball back to life. And today there is a team like FAP [Forces Armées et Police Basketball, NDLR], which today shows the good side of Cameroonian basketball. And I think that if Joel Embiid had these patriotic fibres, which I do not doubt, he would have said: “I will play for Cameroon, whatever price it will cost. I can take care of all or part of the insurance, in order to come and play for my country.”
Because by coming to play for Cameroon, he doesn’t win anything, but he will achieve a lot. I think that’s important, and these are the things I encourage. But I think Joel Embiid is making a decision in his life. Maybe he’s thinking about his career, after basketball. Is it better for him to live in France and the United States and not in Cameroon? It’s a choice of life, and from there, that choice, we can make sense of it.
TV5MONDE: For African youth, those who live on the continent in particular and who need to dream, for whom sport can be a vector of social progress, could the choice of Joel Embiid be harmful?
Daho owner: Personally, I do not accept this option even if I understand it. Because Joel Embiid, he became this basketball star thanks to Cameroonian winger Luc Richar Mbah a Mute, who discovered him on the streets of Yaounde, and who allowed him to see and get to know him. He took advantage of the help of his eldest son Luke, who in 2011 allowed him to participate in Basketball Without Borders, a camp of the National Basketball Association that was organized on other continents. Then Joel Embiid was offered a scholarship to the USA. I think the picture that we bring back to our continent is not great. This is not a criticism but an observation.
I would really like to bring our pros, our stars, so they never forget where they come from. If you don’t know where you are going, this is not a big deal. But forgetting where I came from is hard for me. Today, as I travel around the world, and thus Africa, I see our realities. That’s right, it’s hard. But with examples like him, i.e. ignoring our difficulties, our lack of organization, including our “flaws”, if I could describe them that way, and accepting to come and play for Cameroon, he would send a true example of patriotism and Pan-Africanism.