20 February 2013

BURKINA FASO : Don’t write off the minnows

OUAGADOUGOU (Afrobasket/FIBA Basketball World Cup) - Basketball aficionados in Burkina Faso have opened their diaries and written in permanent black ink the date that their country’s national team secured its place at Afrobasket 2013 in Cote d’Ivoire.
On 10 July 2012, playing at home in Ouagadougou, Jean Paul Rebatet’s men defeated Togo, 68-59, in Qualifying Zone III.
That result, coupled with a 74-57 romp in the first game against Togo a couple of days earlier, ensured Burkina Faso would play in an Afrobasket final round for the first time.
For those already dismissing the chances of this national team making much of an impact in Abidjan, remember that minnows Cape Verde made an unexpected run to the bronze medal at Afrobasket 2007 to claim a place in the 2008 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
There is also the inspirational example provided earlier this month by Burkina Faso’s football team.
In the African Cup of Nations played in South Africa, the proud Burkinabe reached the Final before falling to Nigeria.
Looking to strengthen the squad, Rebatet revealed in an interview with the FIBA Africa website that he is looking at potential players in Cote d’Ivoire and France, some who might qualify for the national team and be able to bolster a squad that has key men Jean Victor Traore, Moussa Ouattara, Mike Sawadogo, and Joris Bado.
Not long from now, Rebatet will be on the hardwood in Burkina Faso with his preliminary squad.
"The preparation starts in the month of April in Ouagadougou with local players and those competing in Cote d'Ivoire,” Rebatet said.
“In May, there will be another training in France with players who play in Italy that I have not yet seen, and those playing in France and Belgium.”
One possibility is Frejus Zerbo, a 2.05m center on the books of Limoges and playing for international coaching legend Panagiotis Yannakis in the French top flight.
Zerbo hails from Yaba, Burkina Faso, and has averaged just under 11 minutes per game for Limoges.
“After that, we will repatriate all these people in Burkina Faso to make the final selection,” Rebatet said.
The intention is for that squad to then take part in a warm-up tournament, with Central African Republic, Cameroon and Morocco having already expressed in interest in taking part.
What might Africa expect from Burkina Faso at the tournament that will serve as a qualifying event for the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup?
“It is true that we do not have the experience of the great (basketball) nations such as Angola, Tunisia, Cameroon, Morocco and Cote d'Ivoire, but the image of the achievement of the national football team at the CAN 2013 (African Cup of Nations) is striking,” Rebatet said.
“We are going to be inspired and perhaps catch the best."


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