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Senegal basketball stars welcome construction of Dakar arena

DAKAR - Six months after promising the construction of a modern sports hall on the outskirts of Dakar, Senegal President Macky Sall on Monday laid the first stone of the project.

In the wake of Senegal's title run at AfroBasket Women 2015, the head of state conceded the need to build a modern sports arena as part of a new urban center building project.

The 15,550 capacity arena is due for completion in 12 months' time and it may serve as home to Senegal basketball.

Aya Traore, Babacar Ndiaye, Gorgui Dieng attended Monday's ceremony

Aya Traore and Gorgui Dieng - two of the biggest names in Senegal basketball - attended the ceremony, which brought together local and international personalities.

Traore - the MVP at last year's continental championship who is expected to lead Senegal at the Rio 2016 Olympics - welcomed the initiative.

"Our fans are used to seeing us on TV since the 2007 edition of AfroBasket Women held in the Senegalese capital city of Dakar. Now, they will now have a great opportunity to watch high-level games at home," she said.

It will be nice to play in front of our families and have our fans cheering us on. - Traore

Babacar Ndiaye, the president of the country's basketball federation, praised the efforts undertaken by the Senegalese State.

This is a great moment in the history of our basketball. Looking at Senegal's success at the continental level, it is about time for the country to have an arena that meets international standards. - Ndiaye

"This is an opportunity for me to thank the head of state for fulfilling his promise made after the team clinched its 12th AfroBasket Women title in Yaounde, Cameroon.

"As you may know, as of November 2017 [with the launch of FIBA's new competition system], we will be playing home and away games to qualify for the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019, so it is good that the building of the new arena starts now."

In the process, Senegal may submit a bid to host FIBA AfroBasket Women 2017 at the new arena.