LUANDA (FIBA AfroBasket 2017) - Joaquim Gomes wishes he could have played more home games with his Angolan national team during his 15-year international career.
The 36-year-old helped Angola win four FIBA AfroBasket titles, was named Africa MVP on two occasions (2007 and 2009), but most of his international success has been achieved outside his native country.
Now, that the Primeiro D'Agosto star admits that he's "done with the national team", he looks back and feels that FIBA's New Competition System should be a game-changer for African basketball when it comes into effect in November.
Under the new system, national teams will play regular home and away games during a four-year cycle (2017-2021) to qualify for the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 and the FIBA Continental Cups in 2021.
"I like the new system because, from what I have read and heard, it gives local federations an opportunity to work a little more with the national teams," the 2.00m forward told FIBA.com.
Angola, the 11-time African champions, last played in front of their home fans as hosts of the FIBA AfroBasket 2007 in a tournament that saw Gomes claim his first FIBA AfroBasket MVP award.
"I think the new system is good," the 36-year-old said. "I will give my national team as an example: we usually win the African Championship, we make it to the Final, but people don't see our national team play at home. The new system is good for fans, it makes [national team] players get together several times a year, [rather than] waiting for the African Championship.
"Players will have to work a little more because they know that during the season we have the national team [duty] and they will be ready for that."
During his national team, Gomes experienced a bit of everything. He was part of the team that returned home from FIBA AfroBasket 2011 with a disappointing silver medal after losing to Tunisia in the Final. He also helped Angola accomplish their best result ever in a 24-team FIBA Basketball World with a ninth-place finish in 2006.
Seeing Nigeria beat Angola in the FIBA AfroBasket 2015 Final to become Africa's highest ranked team didn't really come as surprise to Gomes.
Asked about Nigeria's new status in African basketball, Gomes went on: "We are still the number one. Nigeria are the [current African] champions, they are the best team right now but I don't think they are the number one team in Africa. They still have to win some more African championships. We still made it to the [FIBA AfroBasket 2015] Final. We have been playing the Finals of the last 10 championships. We have to respect that as I respect Nigeria a lot. Nigeria will be the first target in the next [African] championship."
With some of Angolan key players approaching the end of their careers, a lot has been said about Angola’s new generation of players, especially now that Angola will enter this year’s FIBA AfroBasket looking to regain the continent crown.
And, while the Southern Africans won a first FIBA Africa U18 tournament in more than two decades last summer, Gomes feels a lot more needs to be done.
"Angolan basketball has been through a difficult time over the past six years or so. That's because the level of improvement is not the same," he explained. "We have a lot of young players coming up, but they still have to understand the level of playing at such level. They are good players, though.
"When it comes to the African championship, it's not all about playing games, it's not all playing showing talent, it's all about how to win games, how to play as a team and how to respect the opponent. They will grow as players. At this stage, we have to be together because basketball is a big sport in Angola."