LUANDA (FIBA Africa Championship) - Throughout his playing career Angola’s former captain Carlos Almeida was known for his leadership and efficiency from the free-throw line.
At the 2006 FIBA World Championship in Japan, Almeida averaged 10.8 points per game and he converted all twelve shots from the line in six games.
He wore Angola's famous red jersey on numerous occasions at youth level, before joining the senior National Team for the first time in 2000 at the Sydney Olympics. He went on to captain Angola from the 2004 Athens Games until the 2010 FIBA World Championship.
In June he was named in Angola’s preliminary squad to the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament played in Caracas, but he withdrew.
Now, having just turned 36, Almeida is transiting from the basketball courts to the Angolan Parliament having secured one of the 220 seats at the 31 August Angola’s general elections.
The new Member of Parliament will represent the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), Angola’s ruling party, in parliament for the next five years.
Almeida, who majored in Psychology from a Luanda University, will be a member of a committee focusing on youth and sports activities all over the country.
As basketball in Angola is often criticized for focusing mainly on the capital Luanda, Almeida says that they are aiming to promote sports in schools nationally.
"I became a professional basketball player thanks to old schools sports programs in the mid-1990s," he said.
“It is necessary to have more investment in sports.”
Almeida is still in contract with his Primeiro D’Agosto, although he missed FIBA Africa zone VI African Clubs Qualifying tournament played in Maputo, due to his political career.
"Technically I am no longer a professional player due to my political commitments, but I became a team contributor," he explained.
"If I don’t practice with my team regularly I can’t be in shape to compete at high level."
But Almeida is still playing and passing his “experience to Primeiro D’Agosto’s new players” as he said to FIBA.com.
Almeida was left out from the squad that lost the Afrobasket final against Tunisia in Madagascar last year, denting a long period of Angolan supremacy in African basketball.
With the exception of 1997, when Angola fell to Senegal, the Angolans had won every edition of the continental championship since 1987.
Despite that loss, Almeida insists that they can recover the African crown from next year.
“We have a good potential of players, and we have to reassure that our preparation programme before the international tournaments are properly done,” he said.
“We have always arrived at African tournaments under adverse circumstances with our opponents promising to dethrone us from the title.
“We are used to being under pressure from our African opponents and, and I am sure whoever is selected to represent our national team will be ready to stand to our mind-set.”
“We must recognize Tunisia’s potential as they began giving signs of levelling Angola in the recent years. They are doing what Angola have been doing for so long."
"They have a competitive domestic league and they are working well with youth teams.”
While it is uncertain what Almeida’s contribution to his National Team will be, don't bet against one of the heroes of Angola's golden age of basketball remaining involved.
And his political functions mean that he will be defending the interests of Angolan basketball way beyond Afrobasket 2013.