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23 February
23 June, 2018
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Bahrain hosts international tournament to strengthen FIBA Asia Cup 2021 pre-qualification bid

MANAMA (FIBA Asia Cup 2021 GBA Pre-Qualifiers) - Gulf side Bahrain is taking its 2021 FIBA Asia Cup pre-qualification bid very seriously.

From 24 to 27 May, the Bahrain Basketball Association (BBA) organized the 1st Bahrain International Basketball Championship at the Zain Basketball Arena in Um Al Hassam. The Championship featured strong West Asian sides Lebanon and Iraq, as well as North African side Egypt. Bahrain ended up losing to Lebanon and Egypt, after posting an impressive 71-65 opening win over Iraq.

But more than the results, it was the exposure that mattered.

“This tournament is a new concept and it is part of the development policy of our President, his Royal Highness Sheikh Isa bin Ali bin Khalifa Al Khalifa, to develop the game in our country,” said BBA’s Secretary General Abdulelah Abdulghaffar.

Under FIBA’s new competition system, the FIBA Asia Cup in 2021 Qualifiers will see a wider pool of 24 teams. This will include the 16 teams from the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup, joined by eight new teams from the FIBA Asia Cup 2021 Pre-Qualifiers that will be held in September 2018.

Bahrain belongs to the Gulf Basketball Association (GBA) sub-zone of Asia. The first round of the GBA Pre-Qualifiers was held in February, and Bahrain is currently in third position behind UAE and KSA. The second round will be played in UAE from 27-30 June. Only two teams from GBA will progress to the main September Pre-Qualifiers that will also feature 10 other teams from the remaining five Asia sub-zones.

In other words, it is make or break time for Bahrain’s pre-qualification bid.

“This tournament has granted our players access to competitive games by facing off against strong national teams with international experience. It has been the perfect opportunity for our players to prepare well before the start of the 2nd round of the FIBA Asia Cup 2021 GBA Pre-Qualifiers in UAE,” said Mr Abdulghaffar, sounding cautiously optimistic about his team’s chances. Till date, Bahrain has qualified to the FIBA Asia Championship on eight occasions, with its last appearance coming back in 2013.

Unlike other Asian teams, Bahrain has no plans to naturalize any player. Instead it wants to prioritize exposure for local Bahraini talent at both the senior and youth levels.

Bahrain is currently the fastest rising team in Asia, having climbed 10 spots as per the latest FIBA World Ranking.

BBA plans to conduct this tournament every year and also include other teams from Asia and Africa.  

“We are facing many challenges. But, we are trying to take advantage of the game’s popularity to attract more sponsors and increase resources,” the BBA Secretary General concluded.