For the third year in a row, the A-League, a basketball league with a unique format, will be held in Kyiv. What sets this league apart is that its games are held on weekdays while other leagues have theirs mainly on weekends.
With the onset of summer, the organizers of A-League announced the first summer tournament to be held at the new court “X-Park” at the Dnipro river site.
We talked to the creator of A-League, Denys Yevdokymenko, and asked him about the summer tournament and his plans for the new season.
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Denys, where did the idea to create a basketball league come from?
When I moved to Kyiv from the city of Donetsk, I continued to play the most beautiful sport – basketball. First, I was welcomed by the team “Basques,” headed by Denys “Iroquois.” Later on, I moved to several teams while taking part in various tournaments. Having felt the “style” of local organizers, I realized that I was not always satisfied with their approach to the competition format. After talking with the players and having received the support of Andrei Mazurkevich, the organizer of the D-League children’s championship, I decided that I could bring something new to this sport in the capital of Ukraine.
I must say right away that I had enough experience behind my back. Since 2009 I have been organizing basketball tournaments in 3×3 and 5×5 formats. Also, I collaborated with the FBU. I did not feel much excitement when I created the league: instead, it was interesting how the local basketball community would react to the new format – games on weekdays.
Why did you choose to hold games on weekdays?
When I took part in the Kyiv tournaments, to be honest, I was enraged that I was killing half a day of free time on weekends for basketball. The road to the venue and problems with the schedule of games led to insufficient time to recover over the weekend to prepare me for the next work week. In addition to that, it spoiled relationships in my personal life since basketball was a priority on weekends. That is why I decided to propose holding games on weekdays to leave the weekend for family and friends.
The A-League has been going for three years now. What problems have you faced, and what have you learned during this time?
Yes, August 17 will be three years for the A-League. The problems are similar to everyone who organizes sports events – location, teams, funding, personal relationships.
Regarding the first and, in my opinion, the main concern, locations are very important. Basketball must be played indoors and the hall must be decent enough that the players feel safe and enjoy the game. We played both in “Economist” and “Avangard,” but then we eventually moved to “Svoi Arena.” I was fortunate that I managed to find this hall with beautiful parquet flooring. By becoming friends with Yuri Verkhovod, we were able to make this hall the home of the A-League. I get high on this floor!
It is always difficult to attract people accustomed to stability – they play on the same days, in the same conditions, and do not want to change anything. I knew that our reputation had to be earned. At least a few teams were needed to begin with. I was lucky that I was able to attract as many as eight teams. Slowly, news of the A-League spread throughout the basketball community. In the last season, we were able to accommodate 20 teams. We are growing slowly!
It seems like people don’t like to finance sports in our country. At least for now. Ever since the time of my events in Donetsk, I realized that it is easier for shops and firms to give away goods that were not sold out and services for prizes than to give at least some money. And at the start, money is vital. We need computers and a printer for statistics, warm-up balls, shirts for teams, etc. In the end, I even bought a scoreboard since buying my scoreboard with a 24-second counter turned out to be more economical than renting a scoreboard at the Economist. All this required money, and I took it from my pocket. Fortunately, basketball for me is not a job, but a hobby where I am willing to invest.
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Just like any league, coaches, players and organizers always end up in disputes and even scandals. These guys pretend to be professionals. It was very frustrating to deal with people who did not take the league seriously. I want to compare the teams at Donetsk with those in Kyiv. The people in Donetsk were always responsible for their words and decisions. However, the same cannot be said of those in Kyiv. It is crazy to think that some teams would “merge” during the championship or withdraw from participation just before the start. But in reality, these experiences have helped us grow. Our experiences in the league has always been rewarding.
Do professional-level players take part in A-League tournaments?
First, we need to distinguish what it means to be a professional player. For me, a professional player is a Super League player. We do not have such, and it is clearly stated in the regulations that such players are not allowed to play with us.
Last season there were some minor exceptions agreed with the teams. We are talking about 18-year-olds with whom the super league clubs terminated their one-time contracts because of COVID-19. But this is more an exception than a rule.
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But for those who consider the players of the first league and the tower to be professional, yes, we had such players. I think this experience is beneficial for amateurs. For example, as a child, I enjoyed playing against elders more than playing against peers. This allows you to develop faster and increase your level.
You recently announced the first summer tournament starting on June 29. How do you position your tournament compared to the “Korban Cup” and the “ABL summer tournament”?
Yes, I decided to move A-League outside. I want to play outdoors and in the fresh air, but not on weekends. Therefore, I transferred the concept of games on weekdays and to the open court. I think it will be interesting.
In addition, we will have the most modern outdoor court in Kyiv, in the capital’s extreme mecca – “X-Park.” I’m sure it will be fantastic.
How many teams are expected? What is the cost of participation, and what is the format of the event?
Regarding the number of teams, this is always a surprise to me. Starting with eight teams in the first season, we have reached 20 in 2020-2021 For the summer tournament at the open court, we currently have six teams that have announced their intentions to participate. Applications are accepted until June 20. From experience, I feel that most likely, they willl contact me on the 20th, the last day for applying.
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As for the format, it all depends on the number of participants. There are many nuances to be taken into account when organizing open-air tournaments. I’m talking, in this case, about the weather. Moreover, our summer days are not endless. It must be played before the end of September. Therefore, if there are 8-9 teams, then there will be a classic round-robin system with a final. If more – you will have to use more than just Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. In addition, you will have to divide the teams into divisions or groups.
What are your plans for the A-League?
I will record these plans in your article because I was faced with some dishonest organizers stealing ideas to poach teams!
Plans for the next season:
- the creation of a third division in the regular championship;
- a tournament among university graduates;
- a battle of professions and the final of the Ukrainian championship among the winners of Ukrainian amateur leagues.
These are ideas. There is desire, and there is time. We will try to do everything.
We want to thank Denys for his time and detailed story about the A-League – an amateur basketball league in Kyiv. Read about the critical events of A-LEAGUE at sports4world.com.
Edited by Aldo Tong