06 - 21
August 2016
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Messina sounds the call to Olympic qualifying battle

ROME (2016 Rio Olympics) - Italy have their great leader back at the helm of the national team in Ettore Messina. Now that the veteran coach is in his homeland on a short break from his job as a member of the San Antonio Spurs coaching staff, he has spoken honestly and directly to Italians about the team's chances of making it to the Olympics.

I would absolutely love to guarantee that we will go to Rio but this I cannot do. I cannot be your (Franklin) Roosevelt. At the maximum, I can be your Winston Churchill and promise you blood, sweat and tears. We will do all that we can to go to the Olympics. We will try to compete to the maximum of our abilities, which are many and then, we hope to find ourselves in a competition as important as that in Rio. - Messina

Messina, who spoke at a press conference on Wednesday, showed that he has a good grasp of history in citing the leaders of the United States and Great Britain during World War II. He also demonstrated a good knowledge that even with the home support behind them in Turin - where Italy will host one of the three six-team FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournaments (OQTs) - it's going to be a true dogfight. Only the winner will make it to Brazil.

Italy captured a silver medal at the 2004 Athens Games but have not competed at an Olympic Games since. The Azzurri also came up short of the OQTs in 2008 and 2012. But their sixth-place finish at EuroBasket 2015 ensured a spot in an OQT this year and thus kept hopes alive of a spot in the men's tournament.

On Tuesday, the Italian Basketball Federation (FIP) received the good news that the Executive Committee of FIBA had decided that Italy, the Philippines (Manila) and Serbia (Belgrade) would stage the OQTs taking place the week of 4-10 July.

FIP President Giovanni Petrucci was proud and relieved that Italy had been selected.

This is a result that awards our nation that for 25 years has not organized an international basketball competition. We are happy that Italians can attend a great spectacle and to sustain a national team that I hope will show on the court all of its value. - Petrucci

"To host a pre-Olympic tournament in Turin represents also a prize for the entire Italian basketball movement," he said. "I want to give a special thanks to the president of the Coni [Italy's National Olympic Committee] Giovanni Malago, who has always been very close to us ever since we announced that we wanted to host the event."

The players are excited. That includes national team captain, Gigi Datome, who is looking for the stands to be packed with Italians when they play their OQT games.

The draws for the three OQTs and the Women's Olympic Qualifying Tournament, which will be staged in Reze (Nantes), France, will take place at The House of Basketball in Mies, Switzerland, FIBA's headquarters, on 26 January.