Women’s game in Georgia starts to take flight
TBLISI (FIBA U16 Women’s European Championship Division C) – Something very special happened in Tblisi recently as a proud basketball nation witnessed what could be the start of a road to success in the women’s game for Georgia.
While it may take generations to get there and there is much ground to be made up if the women ever want to get near to a men's programme which has been firmly on the radar for a number of years now, the early signs have been tremendously encouraging for a Federation looking to ignite it’s women’s programme.
For the first time in almost two decades, Georgia’s female ballers took to the court – their last appearance coming way back in 1997 in the EuroBasket Women Qualifiers.
What happened in Tblisi earlier this month was an historic chapter as Georgia fielded its first-ever team at FIBA youth level, participating at the FIBA U18 Women’s European Championship Division C.
It was even more poignant since they hit the hardwood in what was the first-ever FIBA event to be held in independent Georgia, with the last tournament taking place on Georgian soil during the USSR era in 1965.
Fast forward more than half a century and what happened in Tblisi was almost a fairytale, as the debutantes made a run all the way to the Final before coming up short against Armenia in the title game.
"The programme of developing women's basketball in Georgia started three years ago," explained a proud Merab Ratishvili, the International Relations Director at the Georgian Basketball Federation.
"The main catalyst to start the programme was the decision of the European Olympic Committee to grant Tblisi permission to organise the European Youth Olympic Festival during 2015.
Georgia in action recently at the FIBA U16 Women's European Championship Division C
"Since women's basketball was included in the Festival, all these girls who played at the FIBA U18 Women's European Championship Division C actually started playing and practicing basketball three or four years ago. After this, the interest in women's basketball increased in Georgia and more girls have started to play.
"The Georgian Basketball Federation established both U18 and U16 national teams and registered them to play in FIBA official events. Now it’s the turn of the U16 team who are now participating at the FIBA U16 Women’s European Championship Division C, with four players who played in Tblisi playing in Andorra."
He continued, "We decided to start with Division C in order to get a real picture of the level of our players and teams. We also applied to host the FIBA U18 Women’s European Championship Division C in order to ‘bring FIBA’ to Georgia so we could check our organisational skills and possibilities for future tournament hosting.
"The women's programme will not be stopped and next year, we'll also register our two teams again for these tournaments and the final aim is that when this group of players have grown up and received international experience, they will play in FIBA Events as our senior women’s team.
"Of course the process of developing young players can't stop and we plan to register our age category national teams every year from this point onwards – in all different FIBA events. The Federation will permanently monitor the development of our female players and their level, to assess if and when we're ready to apply to play Division B.
"Our girls are also playing some 3x3 national competitions, but never participated outside of Georgia, so the Federation also has a plan to include our girls in FIBA 3X3 official events from next year," concluded Ratishvili.