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China will play Kazakhstan and Iran in Hong Kong in the space of three days in February. Photo: Handout

FIBA Basketball World Cup: Hong Kong to host China qualifiers against Kazakhstan, Iran next month

  • Games against Kazakhstan and Iran will be played at 1,900-seater Tsuen Wan Sports Centre
  • Estimated cost of HK$4 million will be paid by local officials if no government funding is approved

China’s men will play their final two Asian qualifiers for this year’s FIBA Basketball World Cup in Hong Kong next month.

The games will be played at the Tsuen Wan Sports Centre, with China taking on Kazakhstan on February 23, in new head coach Aleksandar Dordevic’s first match in charge, and Iran just three days later.

Team Dragon have already qualified for the World Cup, which will be hosted by the Philippines, Japan and Indonesia between August 25 and September 10.

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China were unable to play earlier qualifiers at home because of restrictions imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic, with previous games taking place in Japan, Australia and Kazakhstan.

The Chinese Basketball Association started looking for venues for the side’s final two “home” games last November, and the Hong Kong Basketball Association put forward its name for consideration.

“We went for the games because the pandemic situation in Hong Kong was under control,” Norman Chan Shui-tim, the HKBA chairman, said. “Hong Kong has its advantages as an international hub, and with the global connections the city can offer, we see this as a great opportunity to bring the national team to town again.”

China last played a game in Hong Kong in 2018. Photo: Handout

The Chinese national team last played in Hong Kong in February 2018. In that game, which was also a World Cup qualifier, Hong Kong were beaten 111-58 at Southern Stadium.

Despite a recent rise in the number of Covid infections on the mainland, Chan said players, coaches and staff would not be kept isolated from spectators or held in a safety bubble.

“FIBA had been working hard to reopen most of its games in the later stage of the pandemic,” he said. “Knowing that the pandemic situation had been worse in previous windows in countries like Spain and the Philippines, we just have to stay alert.”

Whilst the Tsuen Wan venue’s capacity of less than 2,000 offers 400 more seats than Southern Stadium, it is still small compared to FIBA’s usual standard of 4,000 to 5,000-seater arenas.

The estimated cost of hosting the two games is understood to be around HK$4 million, and the HKBA is expected to bare the brunt of that cost, with government yet to agree to any financial support.

And Chan revealed that while the association was “in the process” of securing government backing, if they did not get it “each of the higher ranking officials [of the HKBA] including me will have to folk out some then”.

China will play their first game under new head coach Aleksandar Dordevic in Hong Kong. Photo: Handout

Dordevic was named head coach on November 16, replacing Du Feng, two days after the team’s 80-67 win over Bahrain, which secured China’s qualification for the World Cup for the tenth time.

The 55-year-old previously led the Serbian national team from 2013 to 2019, during which time he led them to silver at the FIBA World Cup in 2014 and Olympic silver two years later in Rio.

A former Serbian international, he has had a successful career at club level too, winning domestic cups in Greece and Germany, as well as leagues in Italy and Turkey in recent years, and the FIBA Champions League in 2019.

This year’s World Cup will be the first time three countries have hosted the tournament together, with games taking place in Manila, Jakarta and Okinawa.

Seventeen of the 32 teams have already qualified for the tournament, including two-time champions Spain and 2006 runners-up Greece.

The Philippines and Japan qualified as host nations, but Indonesia missed out and became the first host not to reach the finals after failed to make the quarter-finals at the 2022 FIBA Asia Cup.