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Short-handed Cape Verde playing AfroBasket Qualifiers for national pride
ALEXANDRIA (Egypt) - To try to secure a place at next year's FIBA AfroBasket means so much to Cape Verde that the team competing the Qualifiers in Alexandria is playing for the pride of their people back home.
Cape Verde opened their Group E of the Qualifiers campaign on Friday with a nerve-racking 80-73 triumph over Morocco, and they plan to keep on going until they secure one of their group's three slots for next year's African Championship, a competition they have missed out since 2015.
"A TICKET TO THE AFROBASKET 2021 IS THE BEST PRESENT THA WE, AS PLAYERS OF THE NATIONAL TEAM, COULD GIVE TO OUR PEOPLE."
The islanders admit that it won't be an easy ride to return to FIBA Africa's premier basketball event, but as team captain Fidel Mendonca says: "We are used to facing adversities."
Affected by last-minute injuries, both Shane Da Rosa and Sekouba Conde couldn't make the team, leaving the islanders with with nine players available for the remaining of the three-day event in the Egyptian coastal city of Alexandria.
"We don’t want to waste any time thinking about the adversities of our team, we love challenges. This is what makes us Cape Verdean, a people who refuses to back down in difficult situations. It's in our trait as Cape Verdeans," said Mendonca who finished 15 points in their opener against Morocco.
"We are happy to be in the position we are now," Mendonca added.
"This is a top competition where every team aims to win as many games as possible, and we are no different from any team. We won the first game, but we're going to keep our feet on the ground because there is a long way to go.
"A ticket for the AfroBasket 2021 is the best present that we, as players of the national team, could give to our people. Our country has been through so much, that we want to give our people reasons to celebrate," Mendonca explained".
Fidel Mendonca proved crucial for Cape Verde in the three-nation Invitational Tournament in Yaounde
Ever since Cape Verde beat Algeria in the second of two FIBA AfroBasket 2021 Pre-Qualifiers back in January, the islanders clinched their ticket to the Qualifiers thanks to wins over South Sudan and Chad last month in Yaounde, Cameroon.
With Friday's win against Morocco, Cape Verde are a 4-0 winning streak dating back to January.
"They are a tough to play against," Morocco head coach Naoufal Al Uariachi said in the post-game press conference. "Let me congratulate Cape Verde for their spirited performance. They made shots that we didn't and we paid for it," Uariachi said.
Cape Verde made 14 of their 39 three-point attempts, and Mendonca contributed his part with four three-pointers from the corners, his preferred position to catch-and-shoot.
"We want to qualify for the AfroBasket to revolutionise the basketball in Cape Verde. We want to give future generations a chance to compete against the best in Africa.
"If we qualify for the AfroBasket 2021 we will be able to compete for a place in the [FIBA Basketball] World Cup, which is an excellent platform to give our talented players some exposure."
Cape Verde may currently be No. 15th in Africa, but as Mendonca says, "We will do everything we can to rank higher in Africa. We have the talent and determination to do so."