ATHENS (FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament for Men) – Fadi El Khatib will this week attempt to lead Lebanon into the Beijing Games.
And thankfully, there is no political uncertainty back home, thus allowing the players to focus on the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
El Khatib gave this interview 24 hours before the start of the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
Fadi, is life in Lebanon getting back to normal?
El Khatib: “Now we have a president, a couple of days ago a government was formed and there are no problems anymore. For two or three months, life has been back to normal; people are going to their jobs without feeling any fear, they are having fun or going to the beach with nothing to worry about. The fact that we now have a government has been the actual solution. Everybody in Lebanon sees now the future with an optimistic view.”
Did the unsettled situation before cause trouble for the team’s preparations?
El Khatib: In previous years, every time we traveled to participate in any international competition, we knew that we had left big problems behind us at home. In 2006, during Japan’s FIBA World Championship, there was a war taking place in our country. It has always been so; we were traveling and things back home weren’t good. But, that’s not the case anymore. Now, we are calm, because we know that our families and friends are secure. It’s the first time we don’t feel any kind of pressure or insecurity.
What is the situation with your team right now?
El Khatib: In Canada, where we played some friendly games, we unfortunately lost one of our most important players, Joseph Vogel. His absence costs us a lot as he is 2.10m. After him, the tallest player is only 2.05. As a result, we will be facing a significant draw back under the basket, but we are still willing to give our best.
What do you think about your opening game against Greece?
El Khatib: We know that against the Greek National Team we really don’t have the slightest possibility of winning. Greece is an excellent team and furthermore will be competing and enjoying the support of the home crowd. They are determined to qualify for the Olympic Games and they wouldn’t allow themselves lose at the beginning. Nevertheless, we will try as hard as it gets and see what happens.
Do you believe that you can beat Brazil?
El Khatib: If we had Vogel with us, I would say that we would have a 50% to beat Brazil. Without him, though, things have become a lot harder. However, we tend to play well against good teams and I hope that the same will happen against Brazil.