HOOPS! with MWEMBE KAONA
WITH the 2019 edition of the FIBA Basketball World Cup for men set to take stage in China, the local organising committee took steps to sharpen their upcoming responsibilities with a visit to the world basketball headquarters in Switzerland, where tips on hosting the flagship event were learnt.
It will be the first time the Asian nation will host the tournament, which will be shaped in a new format following the increase in participation to 32 nations from the previous 24 and it shall be hosted in eight cities across China.
The United States won the previous World Cup in Spain in 2014, beating Serbia in the final of the 12 team tournament.
The qualifying series for Africaâ€™s representatives starts next year beginning with regional competitions that will determine who plays at the 2017 Afrobasket Championships but my focus really is on Chinaâ€™s successful bid in hosting the World Cup.
China sampled what it takes to host high-level basketball when its capital city, Beijing, hosted the 2008 Olympics and this time though having only made it to the knock-out stage of the competition and losing 101 – 70 to the USA, the hosts will work towards improving on their performance.
Incidentally, the game of basketball is enormously popular in China, especially with the current generation of college students who mingle with their foreign counterparts.
Zambiaâ€™s Chansa Mufwaume is having a wonderful time playing basketball in the densely populated nation.
Chinese Ambassador to Zambia Yang Youming is a basketball enthusiast and that countryâ€™s construction companies have erected beautiful basketball courts in schools and communities where they have been contracted.
The local Midlands Basketball Association league has CHINZAM Dragons in its B- league roster hence there has been some exchange at that level too.
Many are just now learning of Chinaâ€™s enthusiasm for the sport as the success of Jeremy Lin, a California-born Knicks player of Chinese heritage, becomes an international phenomenon.
Linâ€™s NBA predecessor, the retired former Houston Yao Ming standing at 2.29m dazzled with his height which wasnâ€™t just tall for a Chinese guy – he was a human mountain by anyoneâ€™s standards.
Incidentally, the sport was introduced to China by YMCA missionaries in 1895, just four years after the first round orange ball was tossed into a peach basket in the United States.
It is said that basketball was the one â€œWesternâ€ thing the Communist Party didnâ€™t openly hate on after coming into power in 1949, in part because the gameâ€™s teamwork-based structure and emphasis on hard work and effort fit the party ethos quite well.
With strong bilateral ties between the two countries that date as far back as the independence liberation era, the avenue of basketball co-operation is a must – explore and there can no doubt be technical benefits for our local coaches and referees.
China is surely set to become a force in world basketball and after 2019 the game will never be the same in a country famous for Kung Fu and martial arts.
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HOOPS! with MWEMBE KAONA