FIBA, the international basketball federation, made an important change to their competition system last year. Under their new calendar, qualification for the FIBA Basketball World Cup - scheduled to be held in China in 2019 - will follow a long journey of qualifying rounds. This is great news for Indian basketball fans: India will get the experience of playing in many more international basketball games in the qualifying process, and get the chance to host major FIBA matches on our home soil.
Before the draw for the qualifiers, India were placed in 'Pot 6'. The draw for all of the FIBA World Cup qualifying groups around the world - Americas, Europe, Africa, and Asia/Oceania - was held in a major ceremony in Guangzhou, China, on Sunday. India were drawn into Group C, along with Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan. And yes, that was former NBA legend Scottie Pippen holding up a piece of paper as he announced 'India'!
2019 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers Draw for the First Round:
- Group A: China, New Zealand, Korea, Hong Kong.
- Group B: Japan, Chinese Taipei, Australia, Philippines.
- Group C: Syria, Lebanon, India, Jordan.
- Group D: Iraq, Qatar, Kazakhstan, Iran.
Teams in each group will play each other home and away between November 2017 to July 2018 in the First Round. Here is the schedule for qualifying games for India (home team first): Mark these dates on your calendars; it's still not clear where exactly these games will be played, but I'm already hoping for a big home crowd for our national men's squad wherever they play!
- November 23, 2017: Lebanon vs. India
- November 26, 2017: India vs. Syria
- February 23, 2018: India vs. Jordan
- February 26, 2018: India vs. Lebanon
- June 28, 2018: Syria vs. India
- July 1, 2018: Jordan vs. India
12 of the above 16 Asian/Oceania teams will be in the Second Round of the qualifiers, where they will carry over the results from the First Round (which is why it's important for India to not just finish in top three but amass as many points as possible), and then be divided into two groups of six. Between September 2018 to February 2019, teams in each group will once again play in home and away games among each other. The top three teams from each group, along with the best-placed fourth team, will qualify for the World Cup!
The 2019 World Cup is currently scheduled to be held in eight host cities in China from August 31 - September 15, 2019.
But before all that, India have to set their sights at the upcoming FIBA Asia Cup, set to be held in Lebanon from August 10-20, 2017.