Opportunity is a word often heard in conversations about the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 in China.
The word should be used in its plural form because there are many opportunities for the sport with respect to next year’s first-ever 32-team edition of FIBA’s flagship competition.
The international game has become increasingly more visible around the world during the two-year build-up to the showpiece event taking place from August 31-September 15, 2019.
Youngsters are being given a stage to prove their worth by playing in the Qualifiers, while fans worldwide get to see their national teams play official and competitive games on a regular basis.
As FIBA Oceania President and FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Coordination Commission Chairman Burton Shipley sees it, this is a seminal moment in the game’s history.
“The World Cup is a great opportunity for China to expose its culture of basketball but also the culture of the country to the world,” Shipley said.
“Each of the eight cities demonstrates a huge love for basketball and they’re so passionate and committed. (All) eight cities want to run the opening ceremony, all want to run the closing ceremony and all want to have the US and the China teams (play) in their city.”
Indeed, the two-time reigning world champions USA, and China as the host nation, will create a huge buzz wherever they play.
By February 26, 2019, China and the six teams that have qualified so far, will be joined by another 25 national sides, all of which will have earned the right to be a part of the spectacle.
One of them is likely to be New Zealand, winners of seven of their games to date in the Asian Qualifiers. In the old days, fans might have been able to watch the Tall Blacks play on home soil against Australia every other year in the FIBA Oceania Championship but now, thanks to the Qualifiers, there are regular home games.
“I’m from New Zealand,” Shipley said. “We will play more international games against more countries in the two years (during the Qualifiers from November 2017 to February 2019) than I’ve seen in my 60 years of being interested in basketball. It’s a huge opportunity, a game-changer, that we must not miss.
“More than ever, in the World Cup 2019, there are 80 federations taking part in the preliminary competition (Qualifiers). That means there are over 200 cities in the world that will see international basketball over a two-year period.”
Just as there are still many games to be played to determine which teams will compete at the World Cup, there is a lot of work to get ready for the basketball extravaganza in China.
Shipley is excited, though.
“I think we’ll see a total change in our sport, a foundation, a platform to launch all sorts of programs in this great country,” he said. “It will also change the perception of our sport in the world.”