Belgium opened their FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 European Qualifiers with two losses- at home against France and at Russia – back in November but star guard Retin Obasohan told FIBA.basketball the Belgians are determined to overcome those early setbacks as they aim to make history by reaching a first-ever World Cup at China 2019.
While it must have been disappointing to ultimately lose to France after leading by 13 points at halftime, how would you describe the atmosphere of the game in Antwerp last November?
Electrifying! Everyone was engaged and locked in, from the players on the court to the fans in the stands. It was a great atmosphere!
As someone from Antwerp, how special was it to play in that game?
Words don’t do it justice. Being born and raised in Antwerp and on top of that having my family and all my friends present at the game is a blessing I’ll never take for granted. These are the types of things I dreamt of as a kid growing up and playing basketball. But then to be standing on the court and it actually happening in real life was just a whole different type of great feeling!
During this second window of the Qualifiers, both of Belgium’s games are away – at Bosnia and Herzegovina and at France. What are the keys to achieving success?
Sticking with the game plan and adjusting when need be. They are good teams in their respective ways and for us it will be important to take away what they like to do on offense but also attack them on defense.
Group E is very tough with Russia, France and Bosnia and Herzegovina. With this in mind, how crucial is it to get a road victory in either of these two upcoming games, especially after losing once at home?
It is super important. We had significant leads in the two games during the first window and fell short. We can’t let history repeat itself going forward. For us, we are looking at every game going forward as a must-win. That is and has to be the mentality.
In November, the team had four players aged 24 and younger. Does that give an indication of the state of basketball in your home country?
Yes it does in the sense that the sport is continuously improving. The youth in our team speaks to the talent we have in our country and the talent we have currently being developed in the youth. And these games played at international level are tremendous learning experiences for all players, especially the younger ones.
How do you see your role on the national team developing?
As one of the younger players, there’s a responsibility to learn as much as we possibly can from our veterans that created the foundation we operate on today. This is imperative so that we – the upcoming generation – can continue building on that foundation to raise the bar and expectations for our country.
One of the guiding principles of the New Competition System is to bring the national teams to the home fans. From your perspective, how important is it for basketball fans to see their national teams at home?
It’s extremely important. For us as players it’s a tremendous honor to be able to represent our countries on a global scale. And to have the fans – or better yet our fellow citizens – present to support us while we do so is very important and special. It adds another level of pride for fans to get to watch their national team represent them and the entire country right there in front of their eyes.
Belgium have never played at the FIBA Basketball World Cup. What do you think when you hear that?
It’s exciting to me because that means we, as a team, have the opportunity to make history and be the first from our country to do exactly that. And that then raises the standards being set for the teams to come after us. For me, the thought of that is extremely exciting and motivating.
Belgium have reached the last four FIBA EuroBaskets. How important is it for basketball’s development in the country to make it to China 2019?
It’s very important. I can’t stress it enough. For our players to get a taste of world class level basketball is something that will be of incredible value but also for us to pass on to younger generations. Our goal is to continuously improve and our next target is to qualify for the World Cup. As we improve we will continue to set higher targets for ourselves.