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Basketball - 21. January 2008.

ANG – Ambitious Angola women in it for the long haul

LUANDA (FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament) – Not many people are giving Africa much of a chance to put another women’s team into the Beijing Games via the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Madrid.

Gustavo Conceicao, however, has other ideas.

The former Angola international and current chairman of the Angola Basketball Federation is firmly focused on his country’s preparation campaign for Madrid.

That, he believes, is the key for Angola’s women to join the men’s national team in China.

Bronze medalists at the 2007 FIBA Africa Championship, Angola were on Monday been drawn in Group B along with the Czech Republic and Argentina.

“If we have a good and quality preparation campaign for the event, our opponents could expect a surprise,” Gustavo said to FIBA.com.

Gustavo does acknowledge, however, that Angola’s opponents have a lot of potential as well.

“The Czech Republic are one the finest teams in Europe,” he said of Jan Bobrovsky’s outfit, which won the FIBA Europe Championship title in 2005.

“Their historic achievement speaks for itself.

“Argentina play good basketball. They play a typical, South American game. It will be difficult for us, but neither team should underestimate us.”

No matter what happens, the build-up to Madrid and the tournament will be good for Angolan basketball.

“We are going to the tournament to improve our international experience,” Gustavo said.

“We are a humble team who seeks to reach international status as our game is under rehabilitation.”

The Angola women’s team has been off the international stage for a long time and this event “comes at the right time” for their game, Gustavo said.

“We want to make history,” he added.

“I foresee that in a six-year period, the Angolan women’s team will be a regular in the international competition like the men’s team is.”

Gustavo is the former captain of Angola who played in the early 1980s and ’90s.

The Angola women’s side has been struggling to match their male counterparts’ achievement. Angola’s men are the kings of Africa.

Yet expectations are high for the women, despite the need to appoint a new coach.

Former Angola international Anibal Moreira, who helped the team capture the bronze medal in Senegal last September, recently resigned to become an assistant coach of leading Angolan men’s club side, Primeiro de Agosto.

“We are still analyzing who could be our next coach,” Gustavo said.

“We are not in a rush. At the right time, we will announce the new coach, and it could be Anibal Moreira (again),” Gustavo said.

“It has been a tradition that Angolans work with native coaches but we are open to signing a foreign coach, if necessary.

“In the men’s category, all of our former coaches have been Angolan: Vitorino Cunha, Wladimir Romero and Mario Palma. Palma was born in Guinea-Bissau, but he came to Angola at an early age. We consider him an Angolan.”

For the Angolan women, there are short-term aims, and those for the long term.

And that means Gustavo and the federation making sure Angola’s women do everything possible to reach the London Games in 2012.

“The African competitions are our main goal,” he said. “We finished third in the 2007 FIBA Africa Championship in Senegal. That was an indication of our ambition, which is winning and remaining at the top level.

“We are determined to reach London 2012.”

Julio Chitunda


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