FIBA Oceania assured teams and other concerned parties that the 2009 FIBA Oceania Tournament will go ahead as scheduled despite the withdrawals of three member-nations.
Fiji, Tahiti, and Palau pulled out of the Oceania caging, which CNMI will be hosting from June 20 to 28, due to financial difficulties.
“FIBA Oceania announces with great reluctance and sadness the withdrawal of teams from Tahiti, Fiji, and Palau from the forthcoming FIBA Oceania Tournament to be played on Saipan,” read the official statement FIBA Oceania sent to Saipan Tribune yesterday.
FIBA Oceania secretary general Steve Smith reiterated that despite the withdrawals, the quadrennial tournament will still push through.
“The FIBA Oceania tournament on Saipan will go ahead with 10 teams and each division (men’s and women’s) playing a full round of games and then a further top of the table elimination series leading to the medal rounds,” Smith said.
Besides the CNMI, Guam, New Caledonia, Australia, and New Zealand will be fielding their men’s and women’s teams in the Oceania caging.
Michael A. White, secretary general of Basketball Association of Northern Mariana Islands, which is in charge of organizing the Oceania caging here, said BANMI is still positive about the event and vowed to run a good show despite the withdrawals of three nations.
“We are still looking forward to a great tournament. We will have the chance to play our traditional rival Guam, as well as perennial powerhouse New Caledonia. With the new tournament format, we will get the opportunity to measure ourselves against both Australia and New Zealand. CNMI basketball fans will still get the chance to watch the Pacific’s best in action,” White said in an email to Saipan Tribune.
“We’re going to do our best to show our off-island guests some real CNMI hospitality by putting out a tournament that everyone who comes will remember—and everyone who doesn’t come will be sorry they missed,” he added.
Smith in the same media release said FIBA Oceania understood the three nations’ decision, saying financial difficulties around the world is truly having an impact on the sporting life of Pacific Island athletes.
“Many people in developed countries do not fully understand the difficulties faced by team sports in the Oceania region in trying to conduct regular competitions. With many Pacific Island nations having an average income per capita of less than $5,000, to ask an athlete or their parents to spend $2,000 or $3,000 on airfare to go to an international competition is a huge ask. And during these uncertain economic times, the desire to cut down on spending is even more understandable,” Smith said.
In this situation, Smith can’t help but feel sad for individuals/groups who tried to pull out all their resources just to make the trip, but still fell short.
“I have great sympathy for the administrators in these countries who have had to make an obviously difficult call. I have an even greater sympathy for the players, coaches, and referees who will be denied the chance to compete against Australia and New Zealand. This is an opportunity which only comes around once every four years and for some players, it may be their chance of a lifetime,” said Smith.
Smith added the withdrawals of Palau, Fiji, and Tahiti is a wake-up call for the zone, which may have to review its competition structure to cope with the financial crisis it is experiencing right now.
“FIBA Oceania will need to examine its competition structure to see if it is viable under existing economic conditions in the Pacific. With the Oceania Youth Tournament hosting given to New Caledonia in October 2010, certainly there’s a need to avoid a similar situation for that event,” FIBA Oceania’s statement read.