A BFI Rule that came into prominence late last year, eased the path for Uttar Pradesh boys to clinch the U18 National Basketball Championship title, after a gap of 17 years.

Image sourced via UPBA Facebook page. (No copyright infringement intended)

Led by Indian U16/U18 team stars – Kushal Singh and Harsh Dagar – both students at NBA Academy India – Uttar Pradesh beat Rajasthan 82-61 in the finals.

What’s the BFI Rule?

Prior to the Youth (U16) National Basketball Championship in December last year, a letter was sent out by the BFI Secretary General informing all affiliated units, of Rule XXI Clauses (3) & (6) of the BFI Constitution, which mandates six months residential status for players, in order to be eligible to represent a unit in “National Championship and other National events”.

The letter further claims that “it was unanimously decided (emphasis added) that the players enrolled at various Sports Academies/institutions will be eligible to represent that state only where they are enrolled.”

How this BFI Rule helps UP

Basketball Federation of India (BFI) | Indian professional basketball league

As a result of the strict implementation of this BFI Rule, players from non-UP states enrolled at NBA Academy (located in Noida, UP) became ineligible to represent their home states in the Junior National Championship.

It is reliably learnt that NBA Academy players from six states – Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Chandigarh, Haryana and Mizoram – were forced to skip the Junior Nationals as a result of the BFI rule.

On the other hand, Uttar Pradesh – where NBA Academy India is situated – could utilize the services of their own NBA Academy students – Singh and Dagar. Both players had an outsized impact on the victorious march of the UP team throughout the 72nd Junior National Basketball Championship held in Bengaluru.

UP U16 & U18 Boys’ ‘Super-teams’ on the cards?

UP Boys 2023 Jr Nationals 2

It will be interesting to see if all the top NBA Academy India players now end up representing the UP State team in future U16 and U18 National Championships, since these players can’t afford to continue missing national championships. (Participating and ‘medalling’ at the National Championships are crucial for Indian team selections as well as for availing college scholarships or sports quota job opportunities.)

Furthermore, if NBA Academy players hailing from other States do decide to try out for the UP U16 and U18 teams, will the UP Basketball Association be open to having the majority of its squad composed of “non-UP” players?

Also, what will happen to those NBA Academy players who don’t get selected to the UP teams? Will such players be left hanging – unable to represent UP and simultaneously ineligible to suit up for their home states?

Why doesn’t BFI relax the ‘six-month residential status’ rule?

NBA Academy Junior Nationals BFI Rule

Before the Junior Nationals began, we had asked this question. Unfortunately, the answer turned out to be “no” for NBA Academy players wishing to represent non-UP States in the National Championships.

Significantly, the BFI letter referred to above fails to mention the exception to BFI Rule XXI which reads “Exception may be given and residential qualification relaxed if the Federation is satisfied that such an exception or relaxation is conducive to the progress of the game in the country. (emphasis added)”

So why doesn’t the BFI relax the six-month residential qualification rule – such that India’s top NBA Academy players can represent their home states? Won’t such a move raise the level of competitiveness at the U16 and U16 National Championships? Won’t such NBA Academy players help their State teammates learn and grow from playing alongside them?

Tellingly, if BFI is unwilling to grant an exemption to NBA Academy players – does it imply that the Federation does not consider NBA Academy India’s activities as “conducive to the progress of the game in the country?

That’s a question only the National Basketball Federation can answer.


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Gopalakrishnan R
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