5th appearance (2 consecutive)
Big rebuilding for African King
Angola has dominated the African continent since the end of the 1980s, winning eight African Championship titles. The National Team also finished in 11th place at the 2002 FIBA World Championship in Indianapolis. This summer in Japan, Angola has the potential to reach the Round of 16 despite numerous changes in a traditionally very stable team.
A new coach and some new faces on the court: People used to Angola basketball for the past 20 years will miss the familiar moustache of former coach Mario Palma, responsible for much of the eight African Championship titles won by Angola since 1989 (they only lost in 1997 to Senegal at home). Last fall, Palma left the Army club of Primero de Agosto, to try his luck in Europe and coach at Palma Aqua, in Spain's LEB second division. He stayed there only a month and returned to Angola after major misunderstandings with the managers of the Spanish club. But when he was back in Angola, just a few weeks after leaving, his head coaching job of the National Team, the “Palancas Negras” ("Black Jerseys") had been given to Alberto de Carvalho. Nicknamed “Ginguba”, de Carvalho was returning to Angola after a successful 20-year coaching career in Portugal. In the meantime, the Angolan Ministry of Youth and Sports decided to take advantage of the 2007 Africa Championship in Angola and follow a program proposed by the Angolan basketball Federation to build indoor courts in various provinces of the country as well as the capital Luanda. Those measures were pushed through despite pressure from football authorities after the country's participation in the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany. The President of the Republic of Angola himself played basketball in his youth, and he understood during the war time when he was fighting against UNITA rebels that sports, and especially basketball, could give Angola a better image to the world and some hope for the people of the country.
On the court, Angola's African domination has always been a surprise for observers outside the continent since Nigeria and Senegal seemed to have much more talent. But Angola based most of its success on stability and continuity with the National Team nucleus playing almost entirely altogether at the Primero de Agosto Luanda club - a rare thing in African hoops. After the retirement of Jean-Jacques Conceiçao, the emblematic and charismatic local star, Miguel Lutonda took over the leadership. Lutonda is probably one of Africa's best guards and was named MVP of the African Championship in 2001 and 2003. He was not far from getting a third MVP title last summer in Algiers. Even though Angola won the FIBA Africa Championship once again, Senegalese center Boniface N’Dong grabbed MVP honours. At 34, Miguel will try to forget the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, where he got injured and therefore killed the hope of his team-mates, who finished last in the competition. Besides Miguel, forward Olimio Cipriano will bring his great scoring to the National Team. And power forward Joaquim "Kikas" Gomes will try to compensate his relative short size inside with his quickness and heart.
In hopes of reaching the goal of the Round of 16, Angola as usual set up for a strong preparation. But compared to previous years, Angola did not travel to Portugal. Nowadays, the former colonial country Portugal does not have a strong enough basketball level to get Angola well prepared for the 2006 FIBA World Championship in Japan. So during the seven weeks prior to the tournament, they travelled around Spain, Qatar, Ivory Coast and Singapore before to travelling to Japan. Other than Germany and Spain, none of the other three members of Group B, New Zealand, Japan and Panama, will be favourites against Angola. Should the African giants survive the first round, Argentina, Serbia & Montenegro or France could be their opponents in the Round of 16. And that makes it unlikely that Angola can match Egypt's fifth-place finish at the first World Championship in 1950 as the best ever result for an African country. But in 1950, the basketball World was so different…