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Familiarity with Lebanon's first window opponents excites passionate Majok
BEIRUT (Lebanon) - The Lebanese national team came so close to qualifying for the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019.
All they needed was to win - just one game - in the final window of the Asian Qualifiers and to return to the FIBA Basketball World Cup for the first time since 2010. Instead, the Tom Abercrombie three-pointer happened and they scored only 3 points in the last 7 minutes of the game against Korea, resulting in Lebanon missing out on getting their tickets to China.
Ater Majok was there on the court at the Nouhad Nawfal Arena, playing his heart out as always.
With averages of 10.4 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 2.2 blocks per game through the Qualifiers, he was one of Lebanon’s best players during that run. The disappointment hurt, but he’s back to play for Team Cedars once again as they aim to put the World Cup disappointment behind by qualifying for the FIBA Asia Cup 2021.
“At the World Cup [Qualifiers] we did the best we could, you know?” Majok says. “There were a lot of mistakes made, but everything can be fixed.”
“I am definitely looking forward to playing in the Asia Cup Qualifiers, it's going be my first time. When we played the World Cup Qualifiers, it was an honor in an atmosphere that I have never had before so it was pretty exciting. I was looking forward to every game so I am looking forward to every game in the Asia Cup Qualifiers, too.”
“Pretty excited and just prepared mentally and physically for these two games in this window.”
Lebanon is in Group D and will be playing both of their games in the first window at home, at the Nouhad Nawfal Arena.
Their first game will be against Iraq on 21 February at 9:00 PM (GMT +2), while the following game will be against Gulf powerhouse Bahrain on 24 February at the same time and the 32-year-old Majok says he knows a thing or two about the upcoming opponents that have him pumped up.
“I mean, I'm familiar with both teams as you know,” Majok says. “I played against Iraq in WABA competition and I've also played in Bahrain so I kind of have experience with the players and know some of them so it's going to be exciting.”
“I’m looking forward to it and we'll try to get wins. It's something that will be amazing.”
It is hard to deny Majok’s passion for playing on the national team. He was one of only a handful of players who played in 10 or more games during the World Cup Qualifiers, always ready to give over 100% anytime he was on the court. This is a guy that has a pair of Jordan 7’s customized with the Lebanese flag.
“My relationship with Lebanon is great,” says Majok. “I consider it my second home. It's a beautiful place, beautiful people. I always love representing them because they always show support.”
Majok is an explosive and entertaining player that feeds on energy from the crowd, perfectly suited to play for the basketball-crazed nation.
“When it comes to basketball in Lebanon, the atmosphere is priceless. The fans are amazing; the people are amazing. Whenever the cedars play at home, it's an amazing feeling. So I’m always looking forward to that. We'll try to take it to the next step by qualifying for Asia Cup and to the next World Cup, too.”
“It's always a great honor to represent the Cedars, representing the people of Lebanon,” Majok says proudly.
“It doesn't matter what stage it is, whether it is qualifying for the World Cup or the Asia cup. It doesn't matter because every time you put on the uniform of a country like Lebanon, it's always an honor and it's always great.”
“I love it. I cherish the moment every single time and I give it everything I have.”
Lebanese fans can be just as proud, not only to have a player as talented as Majok on their side but to have a player as dedicated and passionate about representing the country. They can be sure, as they’ve seen time and again, that they will see Majok give it his all during the Asia Cup Qualifiers.