PFASTATT (FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 African Qualifiers) - The FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 African Qualifiers are not just about basketball for Johan Grebongo. The Central African Republic power forward is also hoping he and the team can get victories in this month's window to help give something back to the people at home.
"What I think when I am told that we have not participated in the World Cup since 1974 is very simple, that we have a chance to participate a second time and even more," said Grebongo, who has played at four FIBA AfroBaskets - his first coming in 2011 when he was 17 years old.
CAF's road to China 2019 begins later this month in Mozambique where they will face Senegal, Mozambique and Cote d’Ivoire in Group D.
The 6ft 9in (2.06m) big man, who plies his trade with French side AS Saint Maurice Pfastatt is aware of the task above them. "To succeed we must imperatively play to our qualities and arrive as real conquerors," he pointed out.
The Bangui native thinks the team gained some lessons from the FIBA AfroBasket 2017, where they lost to Morocco, beat Uganda and were beaten by Angola.
"We learned a lot at FIBA AfroBasket 2017. We needed to be better prepared and have reserves play about four or five minutes to give more time to rest some top players when they are tired," Grebongo said.
Even though he has been with the national team since 2011, the 23-year-old Grebongo still considers himself one of the youngsters in terms of leadership in the team.
The whole group of CAF players will need to perform at the highest possible level if the team wants to reach the second stage of Qualifiers.
"The key to our qualification for the second round is our solidarity and our determination. We are not only playing to win but to give smiles back to a people who have been suffering for over five years," Grebongo said.
"Reaching the World Cup would be a great satisfaction for a whole nation that is in search of joy, happiness, peace and social cohesion because through the sport, we can realize these wonders."