What would you do if your car was leaking oil? Would you find the leakage and repair it or would you just pour some more oil into your car? I think that most people would choose the former. But if you would think like the basketball officials in Estonia do, you would definitely just pour some more oil.
The highest officials in Estonian basketball argue that we should “import” a (basketball) center, give him a citizenship and take him to our national team. This move would be the savior of once-so-great estonian basketball. After all, several succesful national teams have players who were not born there. Our basketball officials go even that far to claim that it would be the same as it is in Estonian football – almost half of the team are of russian nationality.
The last argument is really as naive as it could be. Let’s take a closer look at the comparison between estonian football and basketball. Twenty years ago, just after we regained our independence, estonian basketball was one of the best (#6) in Europe. For our footballers, a 0:2 loss against pretty much any country in Europe would mean a good result back then. Today the things are much different. One game before the end of the qualification cycle, our footballers still have a chance of making it into the European Championships finals. The basketballers on the other hand did not have even a theoretical chance even before the very first game. Is really the policy of importing players what has made the difference? Hardly so.
In the last twenty years the football officials in Estonia have managed to build up a system of working with youth which enables good players to emerge. The results we can see already. Nearly all of the footballers in the national team play league in other countries. Not to mention that almost all of them are younger than me, but that’s another story :). There are players who play abroad but do not make it to the national team, so good is the selection today. I dare to say that the fact that several players of Estonian national team are of russian nationality shows how well built up the system in estonian football is. Even the russians are included in the system and indeed, make it to the national team. And these players are “imported” by any means.
There are no russian nationals in Estonian basketball. Zero. In this context, it is nothing to be proud of though. Rather it shows that there is still a lot of work to do, work that has been pretty much nonexistent. The main argument of our basketball officials that Estonia is too small to be able to grow a potent center is ridiculous. Go ask Lithuanians.
Don’t get me wrong though. I’m not against importing somebody, vice versa, I’m very pro the concept. But I don’t think the importee should be a player. I think it should be someone who is able to build up a systainable youth-work system to grow great players in the future. Now this would be stop the leakage in estonian basketball. Without that we would just have to keep pouring the oil into the system.