Basketball a shining light after some dark days for Syria star Magarian
AMMAN (Jordan) - Events during the past decade or so in Syria have thrown up so many different challenges for all athletes in the country and that includes standout baller Alicia Magarian.
When she takes to the floor in Amman for the FIBA Women's Asia Cup Division B, it will be an emotional moment. It will also be one that represents the latest step in what has become both a collective and individual determination to get Syria back fully on the basketball map.
Competing in this tournament for the first time since 1986 is momentous in itself. However, against the backdrop of the entire nation still coming to terms with the ravages of long-term conflict, it is even more remarkable.
"FOR ME AS AN ATHLETE, I WAS PRACTICING UNDER A VERY HIGH LEVEL OF RISK...THIS IS WHY I HAVE A GREAT FEELING TO BE PART OF THE TOURNAMENT" - Alicia Magarian
"The last 10 years, were the worst ever for every Syrian person and we have lived very tough days," stated Magarian.
"For me as an athlete, I was practicing under a very high level of risk, and I didn't quit. We just didn't stop practicing and maybe people living outside of Syria don't know how much we were suffering.
"That is why I have a great feeling to be part of this tournament and I hope the Syrian Basketball Federation will work hard in the future and try to take us into Division A."
The issue of shining a light on the potential of Syrian basketball is a one close to the heart of Magarian. Her passion is palpable as she proudly reels off a full list of things that we all really do need to know.
"I just want to mention some of our achievements," she declared.
"In 2015, I played with the Al Wahda club in the West Asian Tournament in Jordan and took second place with two personal awards for being the best player and the best scorer. Then during 2018 in Turkmenistan, we played in the FIBA Women's Asia Cup 3x3 and we took 4th place.
"More recently in 2021 and actually only a few months ago, I played with the Al Thawra club in the Arab Club Championship in Jordan and we took second place and I received another personal award as top scorer."
She added: "Every person I met outside Syria was really impressed and they were all supporting us,"
"MY BROTHER DIKRAN IS A BASKETBALL PLAYER AND IT WAS BECAUSE OF HIM I STARTED PLAYING" - Aliica Magarian
The excitement of a major tournament return after a 35 year absence is heightened by the fact that it is going to catapult Magarian even more into the status of a role model in her homeland. Something which she is embracing fully.
"For sure it's a big responsibility and I am doing my best to be in a perfect shape, because children will be impacted by me," she smiled.
"My goal is to pass on my experience to the other generations and I have a high passion to teach every child basketball ethics, skills and and how to handle attitudes."
Of course, the better Magarian and Syria does in Amman, the more they will be able to gain recognition. Their cause will be helped by the presence of naturalized guard Randi Brown.
"It's a hard competition, so having Randi with us has a positive impact," she said.
"The chemistry between us is good. But for sure we need more time to reach a higher level and harmony, since we have only have been practicing with each other for around two weeks.
We will do our best in a short period of time, with self and team improvement coming from playing against other countries.
"For me, every single minute in this tournament is important to get a new experience and to know how to deal with such situations," she stressed.
The fact that Magarian is able to play at all is largely down to the sizable influentual of her older brother. And, as she waits to soak up every single second of what goes down in Amman, it's a timely moment for her to pay tribute to her sibling.
"My brother Dikran Magarian is a basketball player also and it was because of him that I started playing when I was just 6 years-old for the Homenetmen club," she confirmed.
"Because of basketball, I had a scholarship from the European University in Damascus and graduated from the faculty of pharmacy. Now I am a supervisor in one of the famous pharmaceutical companies in Syria.
"So, I will take this oportunity to thank my brother for his choice and also thank my coaches Kevork Artinian and Magi Donabedian."
Most of all though. Magarian and Syria are just thankful, or perhaps more accurately relieved, to finally be able to do what they love on the international stage. Therefore it's not a surprise that more than most in Amman, they truly can't wait for the green light to get going.