NEWCASTLE (Paul Nilsen’s Womens’s Basketball Worldwide) – When Mali and Egypt step out at the FIBA U19 Women’s World Championship in 2017, there are targets which if attained, would give African basketball a real boost.
That was back during 2009 in Bangkok, when Tunisia and Mali both got victories on the board. At all other editions, it’s only been one of the two African teams present who have managed to record a win.
Additionally, Mali are the only African team to have won twice at the event and by the time the action tips-off in Udine, it will be two decades since that achievement in Natal, Brazil back in 1997.
If African basketball wants to step up, then these landmarks need to be re-visited and new ones must be set.
I mention it because at the FIBA U17 Women’s World Championship earlier this year where new high-tide marks were recorded for Africa. Mali won three games in Zaragoza and that was a major first for African women’s youth basketball at the global level.
They also followed up a watershed moment from 2014 in Pilsen by beating European opposition for the second tournament in a row, after taking down Portugal on Spanish soil. It was enough to have many observers describing the Mali ‘Class of 2016’ in Zaragoza as the best African youth team of all time because of their exploits.
It’s critical this kind of momentum is maintained next year by Mali and after their displays in winning the FIBA Africa U18 Women’s Championship in Cairo, they should be able to have a real shot at replicating what went down at U17 level.
Critically, many of the same players who shone in Spain will be stepping out in Italy and that is exciting. Manly because in Salimatou Kourouma, Mali potentially have one of the best players to have ever emerged from Africa.
The forward was phenomenal in Zaragoza and integral to Mali lifting the U18 title in the Egyptian capital. You can also throw in the likes of Rokia Doumbia, Awa Sidibe and Nafatoumata Haidara stepping up to the plate in Cairo.
As for Egypt, there was a gulf in class if the Final at U18 level was anything to go by, so simply getting a win on the board in Udine would be the first target. Although with their own standout performer in FIBA Africa U18 Women’s Championship MVP Meral Abdelgawad, anything is possible – and especially when supported by the talented Radwa Sherif.
Yes, I am looking forward to the 2017 FIBA U19 Women’s World Championship already and I am excited to see if that African flag will continue to be raised higher!