It’s the Asian era – Zagklis underlines Fiba focus on eastern markets

Basketball’s world governing body is developing the sport and its competitions in Asia, the body’s president Andreas Zagklis has said, speaking exclusively to SportBusiness on the weekend of the World Cup finals in China.

Zagklis said: “The first world cups in our history were all in South America, then came the growth of the sport in Europe. Now I think it is the era of Asia, with two consecutive World Cups spread over four countries. We’re going from  China that loves basketball, to the Philippines where they’re crazy about basketball while Japan and Indonesia are also very committed organisers.”

The Philippines, Japan and Indonesia are jointly hosting the 2023 men’s World Cup, but prior to this year’s World Cup in China, Asian countries had hosted the event on only two occasions out of 17 since 1950.

In 2017, Fiba merged its separate Asia and Oceania championships into a single Asia Cup, at men’s, women’s and youth levels. Zagklis told SportBusiness this was also aimed at building up the sport in the region, by ensuring “top-level competition” that “is crucial to the development of players”.

Zagklis reiterated Fiba’s support for the reforms at the Chinese Basketball Association being proposed by chairman Yao Ming, the former NBA star,  which aim to improve Chinese league and youth academy systems. The need for reform in China was underlined by a disappointing performance at the World Cup, with the team managing only two wins despite home advantage and strong backing from fans.

Zagklis said: “The results in the tournament give a lot of lessons, but not necessarily the answers. I think that they have great leadership with Yao Ming – they know very well what they need to do, and Fiba will help.

“The legacy of the World Cup is very important to us, hence we set up the Fiba Academy in Beijing. I have told Yao Ming that Fiba is ready to offer assistance and know-how through programmes and clinics run with the CBA.”

The Fiba Academy will provide training to Chinese youth players, coaches and referees. It’s the first of its kind in the world endorsed by the sport’s global governing body and forms part of the legacy program that Fiba is preparing for China after the World Cup.

Reflecting on the tournament, Zagklis said the decision to reschedule the competition from 2018 to 2019 to avoid clashing with the Fifa World Cup, had proven to be the correct one.

“It has helped make the Fiba World Cup the most important sporting event of the year, by taking it out of the shadow of other sporting events, based on indications from basketball fans and our commercial partners,” he said.

The tournament featured 32 teams – up from 24 – from the Americas, Asia, Europe and Africa. Changes to qualification criteria meant seven teams competing in the tournament (Spain, France, Argentina, Nigeria, Iran, Australia and the United States) were able to earn their qualification for next year’s Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. A further group of teams have qualified for a play-off tournament where the final spots for the Olympics will be decided.