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How home crowds inspired Angola, Nigeria and Tunisia to reach World Cup
LAGOS/LUANDA/RADES (FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 African Qualifiers) - The #ThisIsMyHouse hashtag has never made so much sense for Angola, Nigeria and Tunisia.
Unlike their European, American and Asian counterparts, who play home and away games in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Qualifiers, African countries have competed in four-team tournaments, which, through the first five windows have been hosted by Angola, Cameroon, Egypt, Mali, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, and Tunisia.
Lagos Indoor Arena, Nigeria
Thanks to FIBA's National Team Competition System, fans from those countries got the opportunity of watching their national teams play on home soil for the first time in decades.
While Mali, Mozambique and Egypt came up short of reaching their World Cup aspirations, Angola, Nigeria and Tunisia made the most of the opportunity of hosting the Qualifiers twice each to become the first African countries to secure the first three of five tickets for the continent for next year's World Cup in China.
Angola hosted the first window of the African Qualifiers back in November 2017 before giving their fans a chance of watching their heroes again in the fifth window last week.
With Arena Multiusos do Kilamba registering a sellout crowd of 12,000 people a year ago, the Angolans got off to a tremendous start and won their first six games of the Qualifiers, beating the likes of DR Congo, Egypt, Morocco, Cameroon, Chad and Tunisia.
Angola center Yanick Moreira paid tribute to the team's fans: "We knew that we needed to win two games (in the fifth window) to qualify, but playing at home, we didn't want to lose a game in front of our home fans. We just wanted to give our fans one more win for the support they gave us throughout the Qualifiers."
As hosts of windows three and four, Tunisia reminded everyone why basketball has become the country's second most popular sport.
In the June-July window, the Tunisians capitalized on their home fanbase to beat Guinea, Chad and Cameroon. Two months later, local fans flocked in to Salle Omnisport de Rades, on the outskirts of the capital Tunis, to mark the return of Salah Mejri, who last featured for the national team three year earlier.
In the process, they beat Angola, Morocco and Egypt to close their home games with a perfect 6-0 mark.
"It's always great to see the fans happy and smiling in the stands. Playing at home is always nice and I like to see how our fans are being like the sixth man for us," Mejri recalled.
Meanwhile, Nigeria reign supreme in Lagos. The country got to celebrate the national team's first-ever meaningful home games. In the June-July window Nigeria closed their Group B campaign with wins over Mali, Uganda and Rwanda. In September, they capitalized on their home-court advantage to deny Cote d'Ivoire, Senegal and the Central African Republic.
📽 Relive the the highly anticipated battle between Nigeria and Senegal at the #FIBAWC African Qualifiers! 🇳🇬 89 - 61 🇸🇳— Basketball World Cup (@FIBAWC) September 17, 2018
➡ https://t.co/gyM1Tn6zn4@nbbfonline @FSBBOFFICIEL #ThisIsMyHouse pic.twitter.com/16NrLEsYPj
Nigeria star Al-Farouq Aminu noted: "The fans (in Lagos) were very loud and very supportive and we had to win to show them that we are very competitive and thank them for their support."
The fact that Angola, Nigeria and Tunisia have all qualified for the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 thanks in no small part to 6-0 home records, that is the essence of #ThisIsMyHouse.