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Team captain Sakakini continues aspiration to put Palestine on the map at FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers
RAMALLAH (Palestine) - Sani Sakakini is a true trailblazer. It is never easy walking a path few have travelled and even more difficult being the first to pave the way for the next generations.
Nonetheless, that’s what Sakakini has done throughout his career as a basketball player which was an experience he shared with listeners in a recent TEDx Talk at Al Manara Square in Ramallah.
In the talk appropriately titled “I wanted to be Michael Jordan”, Sakakini dives into his dreams of becoming a basketball player and how he had to break through the norms of society to get to where he is now as an icon of Palestinian basketball. Through his ventures all over the world from China, Venezuela, Lebanon, Jordan, and United Arab Emirates, Sani Sakakini has come to acknowledge that sports can be a peaceful message to reflect the urbanization of a country.
That is why he aspires to place Palestine on the map through playing in major international sporting events.
In 2015, those aspirations came to fruition when Sakakini led the Palestine national team through one of their largest obstacles ever to make history.
“The real challenge for us was in 2015 where we played the WABA Championship in Jordan from which we qualified for FIBA Asia Cup 2015 for the first-time ever in the country’s history,” said Sakakini in the TEDx Talk.
Reaching the stage of the largest competition in the Asian region was already a monumental moment of it’s own, but Sakakini and his team were far from done. Even though the odds were stacked against the Asia Cup newcomers immediately in the very first game, they wouldn’t go down without a fight.
“Unfortunately, we were drawn [against] the 2013 runners-up, the Philippines,” Sakakini said. “We were realistic at the beginning against the Philippines, not expecting anything big for us from this game. As expected, we were trailing at the beginning until the last 5 minutes of the game where everything changed thanks to the valiant efforts of the whole team.”
Sakakini, the inspiration of Palestinian basketball and the first player ever in the country to play abroad, rightfully played a heroic part in sealing the come-from-behind victory for the team.
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“I had the honor of scoring the crucial basket in this game for my team,” said Sakakini of his crucial basket in said game. “This was the best moment of my professional career as a basketball player alongside the fact of representing Palestine in the biggest stages.”
Sani has continued his work over the years, not only to improve as a basketball player but to inspire the next generation for basketball in Palestine. The next big step for him and the national team will be the FIBA Asia Cup 2021 Qualifiers, where Palestine will be playing their first game against Kazakhstan on 21 February, 2020.
Not only will the Qualifiers give a chance for Palestine to get back to the FIBA Asia Cup once again, it will give them the opportunity to play in front of their home crowd as well.
“I’m so proud to be Palestine’s team captain and looking forward to the Asia Cup Qualifiers,” Sakakini mentioned later on. “Sports in Palestine is getting better and better and I cannot wait to play at home [in front of] my fans.”