LEBANON CEDARS KEEPING FINGERS CROSSED
Don’t count Lebanon out. Not just yet.
Suspended by FIBA last Friday due to the intramurals in their national association back home, the Lebanese cagers are flying into Manila Monday from Taipei for the final leg of their preparations for the FIBA Asia championship on August 1-11.
The Cedars are fresh from a rather disappointing stint in the Jones Cup where they won only two of their seven assignments.
It will be work as usual for the players while basketball officials back home exhaust all efforts to get the suspension on that country’s federation lifted by FIBA.
Lebanon’s 14-day camp in Manila, which includes exhibition games with two as yet unnamed local teams, serves as its final preparations for the FIBA Asia tourney that offers the top three teams slots to next year’s FIBA World Cup.
Whether the Lebanese’ stint here would be cut short or go the full route hinges on what the decision is of the world’s highest governing body in the sport.
Citing FIBA Asia Secretary-General Hagop Khajirian as source, the Lebanese newspaper The Daily Star website (dailystar.com/lb) reported the FIBA will decide Monday whether to lift the ban on the Federation Libanaise de Basketball.
“We will reconsider the decision of FIBA Monday whether to lift the ban,” the report quoted Khajirian, who is also a former member of the FLB, as saying.
Lebanon’s case to FIBA is anchored on the decision bared last Saturday of that country’s legal courts to desist from interfering in all FLB operations.
“The local basketball federation issued a statement saying they had made the necessary contacts with both the international and Asian federations to inform them about the judicial ruling, in order to allow the national team to take part in the continental championship,” stated the report.
Legal cases filed by two clubs, forcing FLB to put an abrupt stop to its league, and its failure to comply with FIBA’s order for a revamp led to the suspension announced last Friday.
The ban, which immediately took effect, took its toll on the Lebanese players, whose games in the Jones Cup that ended Sunday in Taiwan were instantly forfeited and their FIBA Asia participation put on indefinite hold.
In the FIBA Asia, Iraq was initially tapped to replace Lebanon in Group B of the preliminaries, but the Iraq begged off due to lack of preparations. The United Arab Emirates, fourth in the Gulf regionals, is set to come in instead.
Lebanon’s players, meanwhile, are bristling for action should they get the reprieve.
“I am very happy and relieved that we have a chance to play in Asia and qualify for a fourth time,” swingman Jean Abdel-Nour told The Daily Star. “The team went from depression and sadness to excitement and happiness when we heard the good news. Players felt relieved since everyone was also concerned about their future.
“This will give us a big boost and we will be stronger after that, although we wasted three good games that we could have used for preparation because of being distracted by all this.”
“I feel that the national team is being used by some corrupt people who only want to achieve their personal political benefits,” said guard Rodrigue Akl. “As for now I am happy for myself and for true and only true basketball fans because our chance to qualify for the World Championship is back again.
“Unfortunately, the team lost time for focus and preparation but gained solidarity and strong will. And when there is a will there is a way.” (NC)
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