New generation of Angola players ready to create own legacy at World Cup Qualifiers
LUANDA (Angola) - African giants Angola have embarked on a phase of renewal, and during the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 African Qualifiers, a new generation of players has emerged.
The fresh faces who have taken the baton from luminaries like Joaquim Gomes, Eduardo Mingas, Olimpio Cipriano and Miguel Lutonda (one of the two assistant coaches) have embraced the challenge of putting Angolan basketball on the map again.
On Friday, February 24 when the final window of the African qualifiers opens for Group E, this group of Angolan players can take the opportunity to make a statement to Africa and the world. And what better place to make that statement than Luanda - the country's capital city?
As things stand in Group E, the Southern Africans are in the second spot, and three wins will ensure automatic qualification for the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup in Japan, Indonesia and the Philippines in August.
Dimitri Maconda (Angola)
In the Angolan camp, there is an air of confidence among the players and a desire to do the country proud when the games tip off at the Pavilhao Multiusos do Kilamba.
"We feel great because this is a great opportunity for us, and we want to show that we belong here as well. We are going to give everything we have to qualify for the World Cup," said 21-year-old Dimitri Maconda.
The Angolans will rely on their sixth man - their fans - to rally them to qualification for the Asia showpiece.
Forward Antonio Monteiro, who plays for Sporting CP in Portugal, stressed the importance of fans being present at the arena.
"It is going to be amazing playing here in front of our fans. They will bring a wonderful atmosphere to the venue. We want to win the three remaining games for them," said 33-year-old Monteiro.
Petro de Luanda's Teotonio Do acknowledged that the team is rebuilding and trying to make their mark. Of course, there is the added pressure of trying to emulate a legendary generation.
"To be honest there is no pressure. Those names did a lot for African basketball. We had the opportunity to talk to them, watch them play, and play with them. Now we have apply what we have learnt from them," said 28-year-old Do.
Do reflected on Angola's rebuilding phase: "It's tough because there are always new players. We need time to work together and get better. It's part of basketball, but we have handled the process well."
The 2.05m (6ft9in) forward was confident about Angola's chances of qualifying for their sixth straight World Cup.
"I always say we have a chance of making it (to the World Cup). We should treat this moment like it's our last opportunity. I will always root for my team and my country," concluded Do.
This crop of Angolan players know they have a lot to live up to, and securing a ticket to the FIBA Basketball World Cup is a sure way of convincing their fans of their potential.