Mali's Tirera retires from national team
BAMAKO (Mali) - Mali national team captain Meiya Tirera has announced her retirement from the national team effective immediately.
The 33-year old, who has competed in seven editions of the prestigious FIBA Women's AfroBasket, made the decision after helping her side win bronze for the second consecutive time to ensure a podium place at the just concluded event in neighbouring Dakar, Senegal.
"I AM RETIRING. I AM TIRED AND THIS WAS MY LAST [FIBA WOMEN'S] AFROBASKET. I HAVE DONE MY PART FOR THE LAST 14 YEARS AND NOW IT IS TIME FOR THE YOUNG PLAYERS LIKE MARIAM[ALOU COULIBALY] AND KADIDIA[MAIGA] TO CONTINUE WITH THE TASK. I HAVE CONFIDENCE IN THIS TEAM TO DO A GREAT JOB,"
Tirera, who made her continental debut with the national team back in 2005 helping Mali to fifth place, belongs to a unique class of female basketball players in Africa to have played seven editions of the FIBA Women's AfroBasket.
Her commitment over the years is second to none and her ability to grow from strength to strength while improving in all aspects of the game is very commendable.
Tirera averaged 14.2 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.4 assists at the just concluded FIBA Women's AfroBasket 2019 in Dakar, Senegal.
An admirable figure even among her opponents, Tirera has woven her name among those that wear a smile on court while quietly making it count and leading by example on the statistics board.
Tirera is one to pick up an opponent if they have both fallen to the floor in a tussle for the ball and the very first one to own up a mistake and has many a time comforted a losing opponent at the end of the game and been one to congratulate the victor when on the losing side. Fair play is her middle name.
Off the court, Tirera wears a motherly heart. She cares for everyone to make sure that everything is okay and she can be seen cracking jokes to ensure everyone is in a good mood.
Mali's entrance into any arena has in recent years been marked by the sight of fairly long forehead, jersey number 13 and long legs running onto the court. A true captain who leads by example, she will be missed in the dressing room by her peers.
Tirera has been a true leader on and off the court for Mali
Throughout her career, Tirera has always been an incredible player to watch. Her decision making on court, her efficiency and most importantly her leadership from a very young age showed the class that she has shown over the years.
In an interview after winning bronze with Mali, Tirera said, "I am retiring. I am tired and this was my last [FIBA Women's ] AfroBasket. I have done my part for the last 14 years and now it is time for the young players like Mariam [Alou Coulibaly] and Kadidia[Maiga] to continue with the task. I have confidence in this team to do a great job."
As Mali transition into a squad that is finally seeing the fruits of a buzzing youth system back home, Tirera's decision in hindsight seems like a correct and yet courageous one that will eventually be seen as having come at the right time.
Mali lined up the second youngest team at the FIBA Women's AfroBasket 2019 with an average age of 24 years - after Egypt whose average age was 23 years.
Twenty-year old Rokia Doumbia is the youngest player on the team that has three 21-year olds in Mariam Alou Coulibaly, Adama Coulibaly and Assetou Diakite as well as Kadidia Maiga, Goundo Diallo and Djeneba N'diaye who are 22 making that seven players under the age of 23.
Mariam Alou Coulibaly is expected to fill the Tirera void in the paint
With this in mind, Tirera's decision only makes sense as she looks back on a stunning career that saw Mali become a well established top women's basketball side in Africa.
The 1.87m (6ft2in) forward featured at the Beijing 2008 Olympics and also played at the FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup 2010 in Czech Republic.