New FIBA calendar good for Iran, says coach

MANILA, Philippines – While the new FIBA calendar may pose more questions and concerns for other countries, Iran national men’s basketball team coach Dirk Bauermann is welcoming the change with open arms.

FIBA is set to change its competitions and qualifications schedules starting in 2017, with the foremost alteration being the World Cup’s move from 2018 to 2019. Qualifications for the World Cup will begin next year and will roll on for two years in 6 windows (Nov, Feb, June, Sept, Nov, Feb) with teams playing home and away games. Asia, in particular, will be merging with Oceania. 

Bauermann is especially looking forward to his team finally playing home games after about 10 years.

It’s going to be new for everybody. So there’s going to be an adjustment involved. In general, I think, it's really good because the national teams are very important part of the basketball in a country,” he explained to reporters in the Philippines, where Iran is staying this week to play tune-up games against national team Gilas Pilipinas. 

“For example, in Iran, the national team has not played in the country in 10 years or so. So the fans never had the chance or an opportunity to see their heroes and the national team players with their own eyes. And that will change."

When Iran played in the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship here, plenty of Iranian fans trooped to the Mall of Asia Arena. They cheered loudly, chanted their nation's name in sing-song voices, and held up a huge Iranian flag. They were loud in the final too, cutting through the noise of the Filipino crowd when they beat Gilas for the gold.

“Twice a year now, we will have home games. The fans and the media will have the opportunity to watch the guys play. I think that’s really important for the development of basketball in the country.” 

The change coincides with Iran’s transition phase as it rebuilds with new, younger players to take over from the veterans of what is referred to as the team’s “Golden Generation.” 

That generation of players, which include 7-foot-2 behemoth Hamed Haddadi, forward Nikkhah Bahrami and guard Mehdi Kamrani, has won 3 FIBA Asia titles. 

With the new calendar, the FIBA continental championships will be called Continental Cups (i.e. from EuroBasket to EuroBasket Cup; from FIBA Asia Championship to Asia Cup) and will take place every 4 years, starting in 2021, with qualifications for that tournament commencing in 2019 after the World Cup. 

A lot of European teams have that (scheduling) problem because they have a lot of NBA players and the NBA obviously won’t stop playing for these guys playing for their national teams,” Bauermann said. 

“Teams like France, for example, who has 8 NBA players. For them it’s a major setback. For others, it won’t. So its going to offset the balance a little bit. But I think, soon or later, solutions will be found. 

In the Philippines, for instance, this new calendar has become a cause for concern as it will no longer be viable to put together and send an all-pro team of PBA players. 

In anticipation, the country’s basketball federation, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas, has plans of reviving a version of the original Gilas program, which saw players committing full time to the national team.

It will be the current Gilas cadets who will likely be tapped to join the new program, which has been approved by outgoing SBP president Manny V. Pangilinan, according to Butch Antonio, SBP deputy director for international affairs. 

“No one is still on board. No one is formally on board,” he said when asked to confirm reports about the cadets’ commitments to the program. Antonio said all discussions are currently “informal” in nature.

“No contracts. We haven’t spoken about contracts. We just talked about interest.” 

Gilas and Iran will play a tune-up game open to the public on Wednesday, June 8 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. Tickets are available at TicketNet. (READ: Haddadi-Fajardo duel not happening at Iran-Gilas tune-up games– Rappler.com