22 November, 2021
28 February, 2023
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Gomes overjoyed to finally pull on the Cape Verde vest at World Cup Qualifiers


LUANDA (Angola) - Cape Verde-born Joao Gomes has had to wait for 20 years to wear the blue vest of his country, and he could not have picked a better time to pull it on.

For some background, Gomes, who goes by the name Betinho, spent most of his playing career in Portugal. While in the Iberian country, the 38-year-old forward played for several clubs and even had the opportunity to represent the  Portuguese national team.

Betinho, who last played for Portugal in 2019, has now come out of international retirement to don the colours of Cape Verde.

The 2.02m (6ft 8in) forward has played for Cape Verde before, at the U16 level, and two decades later, in the twilight of his career, Betinho has committed to helping the Blue Sharks in their mission to qualify for this year's FIBA Basketball World Cup.

The Benfica forward, speaking to FIBA.basketball at the Pavilhao Multiusos do Kilamaba in Luanda, where the final window of Group E of the FIBA Basketball World Cup African Qualifiers is taking place, explained he had always desired to represent the country of his birth.

"I feel great. Since retiring from the Portugal national team, I knew there was a chance for me to represent Cape Verde. I had to wait two to four years without representing Portugal," said Betinho on Friday.

"So I and the Cape Verde national federation discussed the situation, and it worked out. Now I am here to help my country to try and qualify for their first World Championships."

Betinho debuted on Friday in a 78-70 victory over Guinea in the island nation's opening game.

He says if Cape Verde succeed in qualifying for the World Cup in Japan, Indonesia and the Philippines, there will hopefully be better support for the game in that country.

"Basketball does not get much support from government. So if we qualify for the World Cup, which is a big stage, we can change the way they see the sport and other sport in general in the Cape Verde," said Betinho, a four-time Portuguese league winner.

Cape Verde are in third position in their group after their victory over Guinea, and Betinho, on his first appearance for the Blue Sharks, gave a 19-point and nine-rebound display.

"I feel good about my performance because it gives me confidence for the next two games. Those are going to be more difficult, especially against Angola and Cote d'Ivoire. So, it was important for me to get a good start in helping my team," said Betinho.

The former Portugal international also reflected on Saturday's game against rivals Angola, who occupy second place in the group.

"For me, it's going a new experience. I have never played against Angola. My teammates know them (Angola) and how they play. So they will come to the game with a clear mind. They also know what has to be done to win the game," he said.

Betinho and Cape Verde have a lot to play for at these qualifiers. For starters, the growth of basketball in the country and an extended international career with the islanders should they qualify for the World Cup.

The latter would be a great gift to his country and himself.