Pick'N Roll: Proud Of Europe

15.11.2010

PickN Roll - Olafur Rafnsson

It didn't exactly come as a surprise. European fans of the game, myself included, had foreseen it.

Nonetheless, it's always nice to have your expectations confirmed while the whole world is watching.

Six European teams in the last-eight of the FIBA World Championship Men in Turkey and five Europeans in the quarter-finals of the World Championship for Women, in the Czech Republic. Two of the three medals at play in each one finished in European hands.

There were two European referees in each of the gold medal games and huge success on the organisation level, with all nations leaving impressed by the attention to detail. In fact all four 2010 FIBA World Championships took place in Europe, with Germany hosting the U17 World Championship Men and France hosting the U17 World Championship Women.

This success was not circumstantial. Competition in Europe is so fierce, that a number of excellent teams that have the potential to fight for a medal on the world stage might not even manage to qualify.

The most difficult part of a World Championship campaign for any European team, is beating its continental peers to actually make it there at the first place. There is simply not enough space for all European teams of world status.

Russia and Lithuania are the best examples of this. Neither managed to qualify and they played in Turkey because FIBA, in recognition of the contribution that European teams make to the level of the competition, invited them to participate by offering them a "wild card". Despite missing several of their key players, Russia made it to the quarter-finals and Lithuania conquered the bronze medal.

It's the same for the players. There is such an abundance of talent in Europe that we could make up a squad with a roster that would comprise exclusively of Europeans who didn't even play in the World Championship and it would fight for a medal. 

This is not by chance, either. Our players get in the habit of competing at the top level every single year since a very early age, in our youth tournaments. Only the very best go on to the senior level and "earn the right" to face top competition in the EuroBasket every two years. When the time comes for them to play at the world stage, they are simply better prepared than anybody else.

I can't wait for the EuroBasket 2011 in Lithuania and the EuroBasket Women 2011 in Poland to start. The men's tournament will be the first with 24 teams and it will feature more talent and more hardly disputed games than ever before in the history of the competition. The champions will be well within their rights to claim they had to defeat the best in the world to be crowned kings of Europe.

No surprises there, then.  


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