Interview by Masoud Hossein

President Tabatabaei sees a bright future for Iran basketball

September 26, 2020 - 18:5

TEHRAN – Iran basketball have turned into an Asian powerhouse since 2007, where the Persians claimed the continental title in Tokushima, Japan for the first time. The team now prepare for the Tokyo Olympic Games, the world’s biggest sporting event, and Ramin Tabatabaei, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran Basketball Federation (IRIBF), believes that the future is bright for them.

Iran will represent Asia in the Olympic Games along with China and japan as hosts. This is the third time that Iran’s national basketball team qualify for the Olympics.

Tabatabaei says that one of the main keys to the country’s rise has been their dedication to identifying talents at a young age. It is something that they have done well and are committed to continue doing over the past years.

In an exclusive interview with Tehran Times, Tabatabaei talked about the future of basketball in Iran.

Tehran Times: Iran basketball team have qualified for the Olympic Games in Tokyo and now the Iranian people are expecting their team to make a splash in the prestigious Games. How far can Iran go?

Tabatabaei: As you know, Iran have qualified for the Olympic Games for the third time. We qualified for the Games in the 1948 Olympics in London and also participated in the competition in the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. At the Tokyo Olympics, a total of 12 teams will be divided in two group of six teams and four teams from each group will qualify for the next stage. Our first goal is to advance to the next phase since we want to be among the world’s top eight teams. In the Tokyo qualification which was held last year, we showed an outstanding performance against Spain, Puerto Rico, Tunisia, Angola and the Philippines. We were the best Asian team in the tournament which was held in China. In Tokyo, Iran will have a chance to defend their credibility and we want to qualify for the next stage for the first time ever. 

*The teams and players were forced to halt their trainings due to COVID-19. How and when will the players return to action ?

FIBA has published recommendations on returning to basketball, with the Return to Basketball Protocol in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The league competition will start on Nov. 5 with stringent health protocols and our players will start their training but the safety of them is more important than basketball. We will also start our trainings for the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup qualification, where Iran will have to play Saudi Arabia, Syria and Qatar in November and February. The league will be finished in March and the National Team’s training will start in April for the Tokyo Olympics.

*Iran iconic players Hamed Haddadi and Samad Nikkhah Bahrami will most likely play their last Olympics in Tokyo. Is there any plan to inject the young players to the team?

With the talent identification programs, Iran basketball can find the new replacements for the legendary players. The FIBA U16 Asian Championship 2019, which was originally scheduled to be held in Lebanon in April 2020, was cancelled due to coronavirus pandemic and it was a big blow to our basketball since it was a golden opportunity for us to build our new team with the next generation.

We have identified about 600 talents across the country in just one age category so far and it could be increased to 2,000 players in the future. We can choose the best 12 players from them for the 2024 Olympic Games. The future of Iran basketball is bright.

Nikkhah and Haddadi are not easy to replace but there are talented players who can go the distance. We must boost up the fundamental skills in these age categories for the future.

*Iran booked a place at the Olympics under tutelage of Mehran Shahintab. Will he remain the National Team head coach in Tokyo?  

Shahin Tab worked hard and helped Iran qualify for the Olympic Games and has a good chance of being appointed as Iran coach at the Olympics. The technical committee of the federation will appoint the head coach for the National Team considering the coach’s performances in the last two years. The result of the session will be announced soon after the meeting.

*Hamed Haddadi cannot play in Iran Basketball Super League according to the league’s rules since he is considered as an overseas player.

According to the league’s regulation, the player, who is going to join an Iranian team from a non-Iranian team, will be considered as a foreign player. So, Haddadi, who has most recently played at Chinese club Nanjing Monkey Kings, can join an Iranian team as a non-homegrown player under the current system. The Iranian team can sign him as their overseas player quotas.  

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