ONCE UPON A TIME, IN NAIROBI

I first met Victor Muzadi in Nairobi, in 2015. He had come to our studios together with Liz Mills, a basketball coach then living in Zambia, for an interview on BAQE, the show behind the Zuku University Basketball League.

The ZUBL was the brainchild of Michael Finley, who now heads Basketball Business Development at NBA Africa. That year, Mike had managed to pull the who’s who of African basketball into Nairobi for the ZUBL finals.

There was a heady buzz as anchor Silalei Shani interviewed African basketball celebrities on the set of BAQE at the Hillcrest Studios on State House Road. Having Muzadi and Mills over to the studios did not seem such a big deal. Then. Now, Mills is linked to a top team in the new, NBA-supported BAL and Muzadi, well, Muzadi is a basketball legend on the continent. A former Angola national team player who helped Angola to four African Championship wins and a double Olympian, he is also someone who looks at basketball and sees not just a game but a whole world of opportunity. Looking back, to that once-upon-a-time long before COVID-19, it was a big deal.

Victor Muzadi in action for Angola against the USA.

THE SPORTS ENTREPRENEUR

Muzadi is not someone you would easily forget. Its not just his intimidating height, or his Lusophone accent, or his easy humour, it’s his infectious energy. This guy was not sticking around, I thought at the time; here was a man on the move, taking on the world in his own way.

We stayed in touch via social media over the years and from Nairobi our team watched as Victor’s MuzadiTour 3×3 rolled out from Luanda, across Africa.  We featured him on a subsequent basketball show, Ball’n Africa, when Silalei visited Angola to cover a Basketball Without Borders event.

So it was great to discover that Muzadi had used the coronavirus pandemic as an opportunity to launch his latest venture – The Scout. This at last was an opportunity to catch up with him. To find out about the new venture and about what drives him, especially during this Time of Corona. If anyone was going to beat COVID-19,  I figured, it was Victor Muzadi.

THE IMPACT OF COVID

Over the internet line, Muzadi is far from dismissive of the impact the pandemic is having on life in Luanda.

“Its tough for everyone,” he says, speaking on a clear-as-a-bell internet call between Luanda and Cape Town.

“I’m supposed to run my 3 on 3 (tournament) during this time, until the end of May…. I was like, ‘okay, I can’t run it’.

“But I have something that a lot of people don’t have – my vision and the experience that I have, plus the content I’m able to create as a sport businessman.”

He’s talking about video content but I’m still concerned about the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on his country and the capital, Luanda.

It is mid-April and Angola has had a number of imported COVID-19 cases, all from Portugal.

I ask him about that.

“We are under a State of Emergency,” he explains.

 The country is still hoping it can contain the virus and has acted relatively quickly.

Victor’s day job working for a state bank means he can still move around, however. In fact, I have caught him returning from a shopping trip, stocking up.

“I work in the bank man, they give us a free pass”

I tell him I worry about the spread of the virus given large number of Chinese nationals in the country.

“Those Chinese they are mostly living here for five, three years, they aren’t going back because we closed our frontier, so there aren’t people coming in”

Acting quickly to enforce social distancing, the country may escape the worst impact of the virus and may well flatten its “curve”. But how does this impact someone trying to run a sports business?

ANSWER: START A NEW BUSINESS

Sports entrepreneur and former Angola ‘baller, Victor Muzadi

Group activities are forbidden and sports events in Luanda are out of the question, so trying to keep a sports business alive was always going to be a pretty tough ask.

Enter The Scout, a show that Muzadi has been shopping to regional broadcasters for years.

“Every channel was just like, okay, Vic, close the 12th episode and we’ll be interested… So I kept that in mind and kept working. I was working by that time at Supersport, as a sports analyst… then  I came back home in Angola –  that’s about 2016 when I started my 3 on 3 (tournament – The Muzadi Tour), so the idea basically was a show that can combine tools and guidance that can help everybody involved in the industry – from athletes, coaches, managers, you know, even the fans –  to understand that basketball is more than a game, basketball and sports concepts can be applied to business, to everything in life, you know.”

The show he originally had in mind, he realized, could be repurposed to something that fit the reality of life with COVID-19.

The proliferation of Zoom Rooms and Facebook Live during the early days of as regular media formats provided Muzadi with all the inspiration and opportunity he needed.

Muzadi has studied to be a basketball scout, so he went with that theme and winged the rest, setting up his new show on a laptop. A far cry from the multi-camera studio he shopped to broadcasters. Yet, potentially just as effective.

“I’m like, okay, I have the show already built for a long time, I will adapt it to today’s needs. And put it on the air, so I can keep mentoring guys. I can keep sharing,” he explains.

One of his first guests was Abel Nson, Africa scout for the Toronto Raptors. Abel had featured as an instructor on a “how to” segment of Ball’n Africa. And it was on Nson’s social media pages that I stumbled across The Scout.

The Scout has now been going for six weeks. It is on Facebook Live on Saturday afternoons and has had some top-tier guests. It is gaining traction. An episode featuring Sarah Gayler had 6.6 thousand views; one starring Jeffrey Tarver had 17 thousand. But it’s on his main page that the growth has been explosive. He sends me a screenshot. Engagement is up 454 percent, to 180K, in the 6 weeks. That’s purely organic growth.

Muzadi’s international network allows him to bring in some really big names, from all over the world as well as Africa –  and the audience follows.

“I was looking for guys who have value, who have experience and talk, direct and simply, like straightforward. So even a kid who have five years old can understand look, this is what I have to do to get to excellence. So, I talked to some guys, my network for the past 20 years in basketball.

“That’s why we go in three different main languages, we go from Portuguese, English and French. So, depending on who is online, we switch language,” he says.

Building a platform like this organically can be tough but given the stature and diversity of his guests, numbers are likely to grow. Muzadi also believes that the pandemic will change audience habits for good, favouring shows like his.

“As I always say, when you have blood on the street, opportunities appear. So its sad, but we have to learn with that, we have to embrace it as an opportunity to be aware that help us evaluate how much is essential – this interaction – and you will see after that people will be 50% virtual and 50% physical.”

Things are clearly going to stay interesting for a long time to come. Meanwhile you can tune into The Scout via his FB site, The Muzadi Tour, for lessons in basketball you may not get anywhere else.