By sportswriter Wang Haoming
GUANGZHOU, Sept. 9 (Xinhua) — China’s basketball reform will go on despite its national team failed to achieve the basic goal of qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics directly at the FIBA World Cup.
The hosts were defeated by Nigeria 86-73 after a hard battle and finished second in classification round of Group M, seeing its Asian rival Iran advance to Tokyo Olympics.
“It is I who disappointed the fans. The fans had great expectation for China at the World Cup, but we could not make it,” Yao Ming, president of Chinese Basketball Association said immediately after China’s loss in its last match at World Cup.
Yao witnessed all five games that China played, and he had watched several other games between European and American teams.
“(The World Cup) is a window for us to look out the world. The gap between China and the world-leading basketball countries has widened,” Yao said.
China set its minimum goal to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics before the World Cup. Most of the players and fans believe it would be a piece of cake, some even believe the hosts would reach the final eight.
Losing to Poland and Venezuela in the first round, China plummeted to the bottom of the classification round. Although the hosts edged South Korea 77-73 in the first game of classification, China found its Olympic hope’s in jeopardy. The hosts had either to beat Nigeria or hope the Philippines could beat Iran. However, there was no miracle as China lost to Nigeria and Iran crushed the Philippines.
The potential absence of Tokyo Olympics would be a disaster for officials, coaches, players and fans alike as Team China has never missed an Olympics since 1984.
“If China doesn’t make it to the Olympics, the players will be the most vulnerable. How many editions of the Olympics can one play? For most players, maybe just one. If they miss this, they may never get a second chance,” Wang Shipeng, former Chinese national team player said.
China’s tactics at the World Cup was doubted by many. For example, the decision to keep three guards on the court for long durations of the game was criticized by many.
“Using three guards could be a surprise to the opponent. But the team will be very weak in rebounds if using this tactic as a routine,” CBA team Shanghai’s coach Li Qiuping said.
China has to learn lessons from this World Cup. Deeper reflections on player selection, the professional league, and youth academies are needed.
However, the Chinese basketball chief didn’t lose confidence and was even more determined to deepen the reforms in Chinese basketball.
“We have the determination to keep our reforms up, including the professional league, youth academies and sports education,” Yao said.
LINK ORIGINAL: Xinhuanet