Basketball is coming home—literally and figuratively.
Starting next year, FIBA will implement a new competition system and calendar of events, hoping to allow the world’s finest and promising cagers to play for their respective national teams on a home-and-away format leading up to future FIBA Basketball World Cup competitions.
The new format, which will be put in effect on November, 2017, will have six windows inside a two-year qualification period for the 2019 Basketball World Cup where 32 teams, eight more than the previous editions, will figure for the most coveted basketball title.
Aside from widening the reach of the sport, FIBA also intends to see the top and up-and-coming players don their country’s colors and play infront of their fans at home.
“It’s a player-friendly system,” said FIBA Communications Director Patrick Coller during a press conference on Sunday night at the Mall of Asia Arena before the anticipated finals showdown between world superpower France and Canada, with the winner earning the last ticket to next month’s Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
“We want basketball to be the most popular sport. We believe this is true in the Philippines. We would like every country in the world to be like in the PH. This is our goal, this is our vision,” he added.
FIBA Sports and Competitions Director Predrag Bogosavljev also explained the main benefits that FIBA expects from the bold changes, notably on the development and sustainability of national teams.
“The new calendar will increase exposure of national teams. It will also give opportunities for young players (the chance to compete) and increase the interest of the sport across the globe,” he said.
Bogosavljev added: “At the end of the day, each player should aim to play for the national team.”
Most noticeable in the format change is the impending merger of Oceania teams, led by powerhouse Australia and New Zealand, with their Asian counterparts, paving the way for a tougher and fiercer matches in the newly-formed region.
“It will be a tremendous opportunity for teams in Asia to play against better opponents (from Oceania,” noted Koller.
An optimised system consisting of two divisions will also be used, with the top 80 teams of four continents—Africa, Americas, Asia and Europe—making up the Division A for the 2019 World Basketball Cup qualifiers. The other registered teams will see action in Division B.
The top 12 qualifiers in Europe, seven each from Americas and Asia, and five from Asia will advance to the China joust which will have 92 matches in 16 days. “We want the FIBA Basketball World Cup to be the most prominent, best sporting event of 2019,” said Koller.
FIBA also reiterated the fact that the 2019 World Cup will serve as the main road to the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan, with the top seven teams in the world meet earning slots to the 12-team field. – By Jerome Lagunzad
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