Second at the International Basketball Federation’s (Fiba) AfroBasket tournament in 2001, the current men’s Algerian team are keen to reach their former heights and beyond.
Their performance 19 years ago was a definite highlight, as they failed to qualify for the showpiece African event in 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2017.
Samir Mekdad the 33-year-old guard stalwart of Algeria believes his side can compete with the best on the continent again.
“Our mission, as a team, is to put Algerian basketball right on the international map again. We have the players, the coaching staff, we just need some extra support to make things happen,” Mekdad told fiba.basketball.
Despite almost missing out on pre-qualification for the 2021 AfroBasket in a two-game series against Cape Verde earlier this year, the yearning to exceed expectations has been reignited according to Mekdad.
“Those two games against Cape Verde were a real test to our resilience. We are happy that we advanced to the Qualifiers Round, but we also know that there is some work to be done in order to compete against some of Africa’s best teams.”
Algeria will be up against Nigeria, Mali and Rwanda in the main qualifying round – and making it into the tournament proper will be the main objective.
“Our goal is to qualify for the African Championship. It will be a special moment for us, as a country, to return to the African Championship for the first time since 2015.
“We are going to need to give our all and play for our national pride.
“Many people don’t know but basketball in Algeria is growing. Soccer is still the number one sport in Algeria and the whole country came together last year when we won the African Cup of Nations. It was an inspiring moment.
“But if we start to compete regularly at the African Championship and major tournaments I believe Algerian fans will start to follow us more often.
“At AfroBasket 2015, we had a good number of fans who travelled to watch us play, so that indicates that our fans are right behind us.”
In partnership with ANA and Sports Leo