08 February 2013

EGYPT : Egypt aims Spain with an eye in Rio

Omar Oraby
Omar Oraby (EGY) 2009 FIBA U19 World Championship for Men (Germany)
CAIRO (Afrobasket/FIBA Basketball World Cup) - It has been three decades since Egypt last celebrated their most recent African title, but they are aiming to return to the continent dominance later this year, when the Afrobasket takes place in Abidjan.
And they want more.
They want to return to the glory days of 1980’s when they took silver on three occasions (1981, 1987 and 1989) and competed at the Los Angeles and Seoul Games.
Egypt men’s team has officially self-declared an Olympic contender in three years time.
The former Egypt captain, Amr Abould Kheir, now at the helm of his country national team, says Abidjan is the starting-point of Egypt’s new era.
And things seem to be working out for Amr.
Two weeks ago he helped Egypt book a place at this year’s Afrobasket, as they finished the Africa zone 5 qualifier tournament, unbeaten in five games.
However, their most recent showings - at the continent flagship event – have been more disappointing than otherwise, according to Amr, as they finished eleventh in the 16-team 2011 Afrobasket and tenth in 2009.
In order to turn things around Amr hopes to select most of the seven young Egyptians currently playing basketball in US colleges.
Among those players features Omar Oraby, a 2.18m (7’2”) who played at the 2009 FIBA U19 World Championship for Men.
“We are working on blending young and more experienced players,” Amr said to FIBA.com.
In recent years, Egypt declined and saw Angola, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Senegal - and more recently Tunisia- establishing the continent powerhouses.
Although Amr had previous short-term spells as head coach of the national team, three months ago, the country’s federation offered him a three-year deal, which may terminate by the end of the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
The agreement shows Egypt is clearly determined to revive their glory days.
Amr is the son of late Fouad Aboul kheir, the last coach to have won an African title.
“2015 (Afrobasket) is definitely the year we are chasing to capture the African title, although we are not going to Abidjan (this year) to make up numbers,” Amr explained.
“We are going there (Abidjan) to gain a place at the (2014) World Cup.”
Asked about his high confidence, Amr said he has no reason to be pessimistic, especially because Egypt youth have been dominating African champions in the recent years and they have competed at the last two major youth tournaments, including the 2010 and 2012 U17 World Championship for Men, and 2009 and 2011 U19 World Championship for Men.
“We have seven or eight youth playing college basketball in the US, and I will try to bring most of them to Abidjan without overlooking some professional players.
“My fear is, if - by the time we start our training camp - some of these young players are stuck with their academic commitments.”
Egypt has monitored 30 selectable players, and Amr is open to see some more.
Egypt down fall
The Pharaohs are one of the most successful basketball nations in Africa, despite their only two gold medals since 1975.
Beside the three silver medals in the 1980’s they finished runners-up in and 1993 and won bronze on six occasions (1978, 1985, 1992, 1999, 2001 and 2003).
The reason for such a drastic down fall, Amr says is because “Some of players retired too early and the political situation in the country did not help sports too much.
“But 2015 is the year we want to be in top of Africa again, for sure,” he pointed out.

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