PARIS (FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 African Qualifiers) - Central African Republic (CAF) players are looking at the upcoming FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 African Qualifiers as an opportunity to give their fans something to cheer about.
So much so early last week, players, coaching staff, and the country's basketball federation agreed on a preparation plan that will see head coach Ulrich Marida open a training camp this week in the capital Bangui.
According to the federation, the first phase of the preparation will comprise of locally-based players while foreign-based players will join next month in Sousse, Tunisia, where the former African champions will resume their preparation before heading to Maputo, Mozambique.
From February 23-25, CAF will go up against hosts Mozambique, Senegal and Cote d'Ivoire in the first-leg of Group D of the World Cup 2019 African Qualifiers.
"We have been waiting for the [African] qualifiers since last September," small forward William Kossangue explained to FIBA.basketball, adding that "It's a chance to turn things around."
CAF finished with a 1-2 record at FIBA AfroBasket 2017, and as a result, failed to qualify for the Quarter-Finals.
"We can't wait to get started in the Qualifiers and give our compatriots a reason to stay positive as our country has been through social unrest for the past few years," Kossangue explained.
A key member of the Central African national team, Kossangue, who averaged 8.7 points and almost two assists at FIBA AfroBasket 2017, insists that the team's morale is high, and they will do everything they can to finish in the first three places of group D, which will ensure a place in the 12-team second-round of the qualifiers.
"When the national team calls me, I am always ready to represent my country. I have been talking to my national team colleagues and everybody is excited about this new challenge. The last AfroBasket didn't play out the way we wanted, now it's different because preparations are going according to plan so far. And, we may have a couple of new players too," said Kossangue, who plays for Stade Vanves in France's National 2 League.
Under FIBA's New Competition System, Africa will be represented by five nations in the 32-FIBA Basketball World Cup in China.
And, Kossangue is adamant that they are on a mission.
"We want to qualify for the World Cup  because we want the world to know that we are a basketball-loving country, and we can compete against the best nations."
Meanwhile, Max Kouguere - the team's leading scorer at FIBA AfroBasket 2017 (14 points per game) - believes CAF's new generation has the means to re-write the country's basketball history.
"Our team has been playing together for some time now, and we feel that we can make it to China," he said.
Although the Central African Republic have once competed at the Olympics (1988), they are yet to play at a FIBA Basketball World Cup.