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The “engines” of the Lebanese men’s basketball championship will rest in mid-February, as attention will turn to the Lebanese national team, which will play two important competitions this month.
The first is the “Beirut Cup” competition, which will be held between 17 and 20 February at the Ghazir Club stadium. The second is the “first window” of the Asian qualifiers, which will be held at the Ghazir Club stadium, where Lebanon (ranked No. 1 in the Arab world, 28th in the world) will play two matches in Group VI, which includes Syria (ranked 71 in the world), Bahrain (ranked 69) and the United Arab Emirates (ranked 103).
The first match will be held on Friday, February 23, and will bring together the teams of Syria and Lebanon in the Syrian capital Damascus, while the second will host Lebanon’s Bahraini counterpart on Monday, February 26 at the Nohad Nofal Stadium (Zouk Mikayel).
The Cedars will seek to win the Beirut Cup title in addition to winning the matches with Syria and Bahrain to achieve the “full mark” before entering the “second window” of the Asian qualifiers next November. They will therefore enter the third and final window in February 2025, given that Saudi Arabia will host the Asian Cup of Nations finals next year with the participation of 16 teams from the largest continent in the world.
Australia had previously won the continental title in the summer of last year and Lebanon was runner-up after losing the final by only one basket. Lebanon also finished second in the Asian Cup of Nations 4 times (2001, 2005, 2007 and 2022) and participated four times in the World Cup, in 2002 in the United States of America, 2006 in Japan, 2010 in Turkey and 2023 in Indonesia. About two years ago, the Lebanese team won the Arab Championship title that took place in Dubai (United Arab Emirates).
The Lebanese team participates in the Beirut Cup in Group A along with Iraq and Kuwait, while Palestine, Syria and Oman are competing in Group B. It is held under the supervision of the Lebanese Basketball Federation, which paid great attention to it, and organized by Global Active Sports.
Four of the six teams participating in the friendly tournament are preparing to participate in the Asian qualifiers, namely Lebanon, Syria (Group VI), Iraq and Palestine (Group IV), while Oman and Kuwait are not participating in the qualifiers.
The National Teams Committee, chaired by Federation member Maroun Jibrayil, has drawn up a preparatory plan for the team to play the two important friendly and official entitlements under the leadership of national coach Jad Al-Hajj.
“The timing of the Beirut Cup is very important to prepare the Lebanese team for the Asian competition, and here we thank the organizing company, which is making outstanding efforts despite the economic difficulties that Lebanon is going through,” Jabrayel said.
Regarding the Gulf teams and their warnings against the presence of their nationals in Lebanon in light of the current security conditions, the member of the Lebanese Basketball Federation said, “Lebanon is always welcoming its guests, especially our brothers in Arab and Gulf countries, and the presence of their teams is a sign of confidence in Lebanon and Lebanese basketball, which remains an attraction for all Arab countries.”
As for the Lebanese team, Jibrayil said, “The Lebanese Federation has full confidence in the technical staff led by Jad Al-Hajj. The tournament will be an internal camp for the Lebanese team under his supervision starting from February 16 in Jounieh, where the tournament provided him with preparatory friendly matches, which will be an opportunity to get to know the strong Syrian team, whom they will face in the first match of the Asian window on 23 this month in the Syrian capital, Damascus.”
Regarding the levels of the teams participating in the Beirut Cup, Jibrayil emphasized the respect for all teams that are working to develop themselves and said, “All matches are difficult and we will play the matches as if they were official, and our players are ready to play the tournament through their participation in the Lebanese Championship, which is the strongest in the region.” “The naturalized Norvell Bell, who previously played for the Lebanese national team, will be the new captain,” Jabrayel continued.
The naturalized Bell will replace his American compatriot and naturalized Lebanese national Omari Spellman, who played the World Cup last summer and did not appear in high form, so the coaching staff chose Bell to play in the “first window” of the Asian qualifiers.