MLI/RWA - Mali and Rwanda’s Afrobasket planning
PARIS (Afrobasket/FIBA Basketball Word Cup) - Both Mali and Rwanda missed direct qualification to this year’s Afrobasket, but have accepted a wild card invitation last week. In the process, they are planning to play against better opposition during the preparations.
Mali finished third in the four-team Africa zone 2 qualifier held in Cape Verde capital city of Praia last August. They saw both Senegal and the hosts booking places to Abidjan, the site of this year’s Afrobasket, which is a qualifying tournament for the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup.
In January, Rwanda finished second in the Africa zone 5 qualifier staged in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, following a 82-76 defeat to Egypt. The invitation allows Mali to remain one of the most regular teams at Afrobasket, although it last missed out on the qualification in 2003 and 1985.
On other hand, Rwanda is expected to appear at the tournament for the fourth consecutive time. It didn’t take too long for both teams to outline their ambition ahead of the tournament.
Mali’s head coach José Ruiz found out the invitation news from the federation chairman and his acquaintances.
“It is good news, no doubt about it, because we have been rebuilding this team in the past two years,” Ruiz told FIBA.com.
“This is a slow process that requires patience and I can’t outline Afrobasket objectives without meeting the team,” said the Frenchman who led Mali women’s team at the 2008 Olympics.
Last summer, in Praia, Mali lost to Senegal (68-54 and 67-59), beat Mauritania (89-53 and 59-56), but it was against hosts that Mali decided its feat.
After the 70-60 win in Day-3, Mali entered the final day with the stiff mission to repeat that result, but all went wrong as Cape Verde came up stronger win 80-63.
Ruiz says a change in the schedule is highly needed for the good of the tournament.
“We played six games in seven days. Honestly, I don’t understand how FIBA can allow such tournament schedule.
“We had only eight players available because two were ineligible to play and the other two got injured,” Ruiz said.
However, he remains positive about his teams’ future because he keeps receiving phone calls from players confirming their availability.
“We’ll give players a break after the end of their professional season, then we start our preparation in June.
“I have been talking to the head coaches of Burkina Faso (Jean-Paul Rabatet) and Ivory Coast (Christophe Denis), who are all based here in France, and we are planning a preparation tournament in Burkinabe capital of Ouagadougou in June or July.”
Rwanda’s fourth showing
Although Rwanda has only been officially invited last week, local media reports cited in January a country’s Basketball Federation’s sources confirming the invitation.
Rwanda’s head coach Moise Mutokambali has hinted a preparation match-up against Angola either in May or June.
“We are still in negotiations with the Angolan (basketball) federation but until now nothing has been agreed,” he said.
“The players have been occupied with the national league, which has reached the playoffs final, nevertheless, we need to engage them in some international games as we prepare for the continental tournament,” Mutokambali pointed out.
The 2013 Afrobasket draw takes place on 30 March in Ivory Coast capital of Abidjan.