casspi montenegro 311.
(photo credit: FIBA EUROPE Web site))
In a decision being panned across the continent as ridiculous and unsporting, FIBA Europe announced on Sunday night that EuroBasket 2011 in Lithuania will be contested by 24 teams instead of 16.
After battling through a month long campaign, Israel celebrated its 10th straight qualification to the European Championships last week, finishing as one of the two best runners-up.
However, the national team’s eight qualifiers against Montenegro, Italy, Latvia and Finland were rendered almost meaningless following Sunday’s statement from the FIBA Europe Executive Committee.
“This is disappointing,” Israel star Omri Casspi said. “We fought all summer long against some of the best teams in Europe and it has now all gone down the drain.”
The Executive Committee was backed in its decision by a majority of the FIBA Europe Board Members, who were also present at the meeting in Istanbul on Sunday.
“The expansion is meant to follow the rapid development of European Basketball.” commented FIBA Europe Secretary General Nar Zanolin.
“Proof for this development can be found at the FIBA World Championship where nine of the 10 participating European teams advanced from the Preliminary Round to participate in the Eight-Finals.”
In addition to the five teams that had already qualified to a 16-team EuroBasket, seven more teams have now been assured their ticket for Lithuania.
Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Georgia, Italy, Latvia, Poland and
Ukraine are the ones going directly to the Final Round, after taking
places two to four in their respective groups this summer.
Finland, Hungary and Portugal, who finished last in their groups,
winning a combined five games, will play out for the last two places in
the Additional Qualification Round in 2011.
“This decision causes irreparable damage to the reputation of European
basketball,” Israel Basketball Association chairman Shay Shani said.
“This decision makes no sense and was made for political reasons.”