THE Lebanon national team’s dream chase for a possible fourth straight trip to the world championship finally ended after Fiba upheld its decision to suspend the Lebanese Basketball Federation for “violating the Fiba General statutes.”
“At the outset, we wish to reiterate that the suspension of your federation has not been a decision taken hastily by FIBA. It was indeed approved by the FIBA central board due to events of the utmost gravity whereby one club has been able, with external political support, to disrupt entirely the smooth running of the Lebanese national championship,” Fiba said in a statement published by the Lebanon-based news publication the Daily Star.
“The scenario represents without any doubt the most serious violation of the FIBA General Statutes and all principles under which the Olympic sports movement is founded.”
The statement added, “It is now urgent for the basketball family in Lebanon to work on solving these internal issues. FIBA and FIBA ASIA remain of course fully committed to helping your federation in its reorganization.”
The Cedars, Lebanon’s basketball monicker, were supposed to play a tune up match against the Globalport Batang Pier on Friday, 6 p.m. at the San Juan Arena. But with the Fiba suspension confirmed, Lebanese national team manager George Kelzi has cancelled the schedule and the team is set to leave on Friday.
“We’re supposed to play Lebanon tonight (Friday night), pero sinabihan na kami na di na nga daw tuloy kasi pauwi na sila dahil suspended na sila sa Fiba,” Globalport team manager BJ Manalo told Spin.ph.
Fiba slapped the suspension on Lebanon late last week due to what it termed as "open political interference" whether within clubs or the governing local basketball body in the country.
The suspension keeps Lebanon from participating in the Fiba-Asia men’s championships, the Fiba World championships qualifier, set to start this August 1 at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The Lebanese are one of the favorites to finish among the top three in this year’s Fiba-Asia showpiece, along with defending champion China and newly-crowned Jones Cup champion Iran.
Lebanon, which has played in the last three Fiba World championships, was originally bracketed in Group B along with Qatar, Japan and Hong Kong.
The Philippines, bunched at Group A, would have possibly faced Lebanon in the second round since the top three teams of each group will face off in the next round.
The Cedars’ spot would likely be taken by the United Arab Emirates.