''It is just the beginning'' for Karl Zamatta and U17 World Cup-bound Lebanon
DOHA (Qatar) - It was easy to doubt Lebanon and their chances through the FIBA U16 Asian Championship 2022.
They had lost to Iran in the U16 WABA Championship prior to the Asian meet in Doha. When the two teams faced each other again in the Group Phase of the U16 Asian Championship, Lebanon lost again in a game where they trailed the entire time.
"We all came for one cause, representing Lebanon worldwide."
The young Cedars eventually made it to the Quarter-Finals to face an undefeated Korea team.
Even when Lebanon were leading in the middle of the game by 8 points, there was still a reason to doubt they would win the game as Korea has recently come from behind to beat New Zealand in their previous game.
But the spirits of the players in the team were strong. No matter how badly the odds were stacked against them, they kept fighting through. The end result: a win over Korea, a trip to the Semi-Finals, and a first-ever appearance at the FIBA U17 Basketball World Cup for Lebanon.
One of the fiercest competitors of them all through this journey was Karl Zamatta.
"Our only target was to get to the U17 World Cup," said the 16-year-old center. "With all the struggles we went through, we didn’t give up. We stood side by side one team, one family, one goal."
It’s amazing to see what focus and determination does for you. With all that was at stake in this game against Korea, Zamatta had his best game so far in the tournament - and actually one of the best by any player in the competition.
His 37 Efficiency rating is tied at first ahead of big time performances from featured players like Rocco Zikarsky and Yuto Kawashima. His 21 rebounds is the most by any player so far this year, and is also ranked highly among all-time rebounding performance in the competition. The 24 points from the performance is impressive as well, as it comes with 0 points from the charity stripe.
Zamatta learns by watching some of the best to have ever played the game in Lebanon - and in Asia, actually - and it shows in the way he approaches the game.
"I always look up to Fadi El Khatib. I follow him and learn from the struggles and success he faced as a player."
Most importantly, what motivates Zamatta is being able to put the name of the country and flag on his chest to give it everything he has.
"I am honored to represent the national team worldwide by doing what I do best."
A quick few reminders: Zamatta is just 16 years old, playing at a U16 competition. There is a lot more basketball in store for the youngster, which means that the future should be bright, both for Zamatta himself and for Lebanon basketball.
"All I can say as a 16-year-old basketball player, is that it is just the beginning. We just took our very first steps in belonging to a wider future in this game."
"Making it to the U17 world cup is a huge step for us. We worked hard, and never surrendered. We all came for one cause, representing Lebanon worldwide."
"And here we are!"