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Foreign players ineligible for basketball awards

Last update - Thursday, May 10, 2007, 00:00 By Metro Éireann

Non-Irish basketball players in the Irish leagues are barred from winning the player of the season awards, it has emerged. 

Fans, players and commentators casting their votes for the upcoming Basketball Ireland Annual Awards are prohibited from entering the name of a foreigner for player of the season as the organisation felt that Irish players were struggling to compete with US players who had been sweeping the boards over recent years.

Michael Goj, who helped DART Killester to the SuperLeague title with a mammoth display during the tournament and particularly in the final, might well have featured on the honours list but for the fact that he was born in Poland.

Goj, who came to Ireland last summer, was unavailable for comment, but his DART Killester team coach Mark Keenan was full of praise for his East European find.

“He tried out for another team before asking could he try out with us. I was very happy to keep him when I saw him,” he said. “He’s very athletic but he’s also a very exciting player with a very good attitude. He fitted in great with everybody. I’ve been delighted with him.”

The coach continued: “We had a great season which was topped off with us winning the SuperLeague. Michael played a big part in that, especially in the final. He really came good for us and that was only his first season.”

Keenan also said that he felt the current awards system, which prohibits Goj from receiving any formal recognition of his contribution, should be re-examined.

He added: “If there is a problem with Irish players not getting awards then they should create two categories, one for Irish player of the year with either an overall player of the year or a foreign player of the year award.

“It’s not a player of the year award if only people from Ireland stand to win it. You have to take everybody into account.”

A source inside Basketball Ireland told Metro Eireann that while the original idea behind the rule change did have merit, the league is diversifying rapidly and the stipulation may need to be looked at again.

“The rules of the voting procedure for our annual awards only allows voting for Irish players,” the source stated. “It was originally brought in as Americans won the awards every year. The argument is that it is supposed to encourage home-based players in the game, but it’s not something I agree with.”

However, the source also said that Basketball Ireland is aware of the increasing unsuitability of the rule and may be prepared to change it in the near future: “Since the population demographics have changed I can see this stipulation being lifted. Although I can’t see it happening in time for this year’s awards.”
Basketball is one of the only mainstream sports which bars non-Irish nationals from winning such awards, with several US-born soccer players claiming player of the year titles at the FAI’s ceremonies over recent years.

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