GABORONE, Botswana – Surrounding the II WBSC Congress at the Gaborone International Convention Centre, World Baseball Softball leader Riccardo Fraccari recently spoke with David Kalfa of Radio France Internationale (RFI), one of the world’s biggest radio stations and media outlets with an international audience of approximately 35 million.
Excerpts of the Interview:
DK: Is Africa one of your priorities as WBSC president?
RF: WBSC’s mission is to grow from an emerging global sport of 200 million fan and athletes to a major global sport of 1 billion over the next decade, and the reality is that this is not possible without Africa.
DK: What are your expectations for baseball and softball in Africa during the next years?
RF: I want to see numbers of athletes grow as well as new clubs being created, resulting in Africa’s top National Teams playing in our world championships and at the Olympic Games, inspiring young people in these countries to play the game and driving new fans and audiences to the game.
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DK: Baseball is very popular in the Americas, Asia and some countries in Europe. Why is it less popular in Africa, according to you?
RF: Baseball and softball are one of the most popular across the Americas and also East Asia. Our sport is growing in a number of countries in Europe and Oceania, while countries like Botswana and South Africa compete at a good level and regularly have National Teams in our World Cups (Championships), representing Africa.
In recent years, first-ever baseball fields were constructed in Ghana and Uganda, showing progress is being made to increase access to the game across Africa.
Increasing access to the game – whether it’s the playing grounds, equipment or instruction — is the number one task.
I am confident that if baseball and softball are available to play in more communities across Africa, young people will gravitate toward it and fall in love with it, as tens of millions around the world have done already.
And with baseball and softball back on the Olympic programme in 2020, we have a great opportunity to accelerate growth in Africa over the next years and decade.
DK: In African French speaking countries people are not very familiar with bat and racket sports. Is that a problem for baseball and softball development?
RF: Our newest form of baseball that we recently launched in Burundi is actually played without a bat, so we feel this is key to our growth strategy – adapting the sport for the target audience and culture.
We also recently launched the Francophone Association of Baseball Softball (L’association Francophone de Baseball et Softball) and this group of 14 nations had meetings here in Gaborone.
This body’s purpose is to help increase access and make our sport familiar among the 77 French-speaking countries and provinces around the world, which represent approximately 890 million people.
WBSC is also targeting the inclusion of baseball/softball at the Paris 2024 Olympics Games, and this should also help showcase the game where the French language was born.
DK: Will Africa have automatically a contender at the 2020 Summer Olympics?
The qualifying system has not yet been finalised, but it will be tough with only a six-nation tournament and five available spots. At this point, we can only say that African national teams, like all nations from the 5 Olympic continents, will have a fair chance to qualify.
For the full interview (in French), visit http://www.rfi.fr/sports/20171019-riccardo-fraccari-afrique-est-essentielle-developpement-baseball.