KLATOVY (FIBA U17 World Championship for Women) - Three years after playing at the FIBA U19 World Championship for Women, Egypt are treading new ground with their debut at the FIBA U17 World Championship for Women and it's something playmaker Nada Amr believes represents a real breakthrough for women's basketball in her homeland.
While Amr and her team are yet to find the win they crave after their first couple of encounters against the traditional powerhouse nations of Spain and Brazil, the guard is adamant that they can still make an impact.
"It is obviously our first time and so far it has been a very interesting experience and we have definitely been giving it our best," she said.
"Perhaps we have not been playing so well, but we are aiming to win our next game against Italy.
"It is an amazing feeling of pride to be from Africa and I hope we can continue doing our best to represent our fellow Africans.
"Apparently everyone back home is watching the games and many girls are now seeing that it might be a goal in their lives to represent Egypt in competitions like this.
"It is not only my family and friends who are watching us play on youtube and everyone is really proud of us, even though we are not yet winning games.
"I know that many young people and teenagers are playing a lot of basketball at home and it is a priority for girls because there is generally no football option for them.
"We are improving as a basketball nation and it is noticeable that coaches in Egypt are getting better and now travelling to other countries to get some new experiences.
"Who knows, maybe in 10 years from now we can really be something," added Amr.
As well as the on-court action, she was also quick to express the benefits of spending time with players from other nations and the thrill of meeting a host of new friends.
"We are sharing a hotel with Korea and Canada, so we all talk to each other and I have to say that all the other countries have had many really nice people too," revealed Amr.
"Apart from the basketball, it is an amazing thing getting to know other countries and cultures.
"Overall, it is an incredible experience and I am already hoping that we can do the same again one day, maybe at the FIBA U19 World Championship for Women."
It has certainly been something of a roller-coaster ride during the last year or so for Amr and her team-mates. They lost out on gold in gut-wrenching fashion at the FIBA U16 Africa Championship for Women with a 62-61 loss to Mali in the dying seconds.
While it is something which still haunts her, Amr is moving on with the help of head coach, Wael Eldiasty who held the reins in Chile with the U19 team back in 2011.
"He is an amazing coach as he always stands by us at our side," emphasised Amr.
"He is always there for us and we would all like to thank him for the way he supports us."
As for the man himself, Eldiasty is aligning expectations in realistic fashion but one thing is absolutely certain - he is eager to avoid finishing in 16th spot.
"We only had two weeks of preparation including a week in Cairo and a week in Turkey, but nothing is impossible and we will try hard against Italy," he said.
"It is very difficult for the players at U17 level compared to U19 because of the two years difference which is actually big (in basketball terms) and it is not easy for them.
"I want to avoid finishing in the 16th position and I want us to finish in at least 13th place if possible.
"We also want to see if some players might be able to play for the senior team in the future through their experiences at this tournament."FIBA
– but the sailors praise the new boats
Photo Credit: Dario Belingheri/Bettini Photo
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