BEIRUT, Lebanon (4th FIBA Asia Cup): At this time about a year ago, Ghassan Sarkis and Fadi El Khatib – the two long serving protagonists of Lebanese basketball sat together and plotted the way forward for Champville’s attempt at winning the prestigious FLBB Division A League title. Having achieved that, the two are together once again only this time the stakes are much higher.
El Khatib and Sarkis will come together again, for the first time in a FIBA Asia event in more than a decade, this time for the Cedars National Team at the 4th FIBA Asia Cup starting in Tokyo (Japan) coming Friday. Technically, Lebanon are the defending champions for the event having won the title in front of a home crowd at Beirut two years ago – in the 3rd FIBA Asia Stankovic Cup – when the event was named thus.
“We are not going only to compete, we are going to win the gold,” El Khatib said.
“I have always said that Lebanon can still compete with the best teams in Asia. It’s only a matter of a couple things, mainly the chemistry and I think the players know each other pretty well now,” he was quoted as saying in the Lebanese media.
The winners of the 4th FIBA Asia Cup will earn a direct entry to the 27th FIBA Asia Championship next year, which in turn is the qualifying event for the 2014 FIBA World Cup.
“Since the beginning, I have said that our plan is to qualify to the 2014 World Championship. Nothing changed. What we did since 2011 is to pump new blood into the team, and obviously, we can see now a couple of players who are capable of leading the team such as (Rodrigue) Akl and (Elie) Stephan,” Sarkis told Lebanon’s popular English daily The Daily Star.
“It is true that the progress was a bit slow, a normal result compared to the obstacles we had to overcome lately, but I can see that our project will start to pay off very soon,” he added.
Lebanon are drawn with reigning FIBA Asia Championship winners China, SEABA champions Philippines, East Asia’s Macau and Central Asia’s Uzbekistan in Group A of the Prelim Round competition at the 4th FIBA Asia Cup.
Lebanon open their campaign with a game against Macau tipping off the proceedings for the event itself on Sept 14. Click here for complete schedule of 4th FIBA Asia Cup.