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>>Interviews - wch2006



>>Interviews
sen moustapha gaye o - Interviews
27/07/2006

SEN - Gaye pins hopes on team ethic

WIN a trip to the FIBA World Championship Finals weekend

DAKAR (FIBA World Championship) - Senegal coach Moustapha Gaye has made collective spirit and team work his top priorities for Senegal's chances of success at the FIBA World Championship.

Senegal qualified for the tournament after a second-place finish at the FIBA Africa Championship final last summer.

They will line up in Group D alongside China, America, Italy, Puerto Rico and Slovenia, who are their first opponents on August 19. And according to Gaye, the Senegalese will be looking to belie their underdog status.

"We are a little country which tries to do its best with little experience," said the coach, who replaced the sacked Abdou N'Diaye just two weeks ago.

"We don't have any set objective for the FIBA World Championship, but on the eve of the tournament we must be a team capable of representing Senegal with dignity."

Senegal`s last-gasp 75-74 win over top European side Lithuania in their final match of the Strasbourg international tournament on Sunday was a boost after back-to-back defeats.

Beaten 95-58 by France on Friday and then 57-53 by China the following day, Gaye's depleted team showed their mettle against the Lithuanians.

Missing were NBA stars Pape Saw (Toronto Raptors) and Boniface N'Dong (Los Angeles Clippers) through injury, as well as Desagana Diop (Dallas Mavericks), who pulled out of the tournament after the sacking of N'Diaye.

"I don't want to read too much into it," said Gaye. "We did play well after gradually improving our level throughout the tournament, but we are far from being ready for the FIBA World Championship.

"The level of our game and spirit must improve further. I repeat: the most important thing is to be ready on time."

The narrow 57-53 loss to a dangerous if weakened China was also a good sign of Senegal's growing confidence ahead of the two teams` meeting on August 23.

"We did not pretend we could win in Strasbourg," added Gaye. "But it was important to come and play this tournament. Basketball is a question of strategy.

"China now have an idea of the way we play, but we have an idea of the way they play too.

"Like us they have not yet reached top form and are deprived of key players. They played without Yao Ming, but we played without a few key players too. They are also in the process of building a competitive side."

Gaye admitted the Chinese player who impressed him the most was centre Wang Zhizhi, who injured his left knee during China's loss to France on the last day of the tournament.

He will be out of action for three weeks, but should be back on track for the start of the FIBA World Championship.

"Wang Zhizhi is a really good player and the number 11 (Ji Jianlian) too," noted Gaye. "But what interested me the most was to see how China played as a team, not so much the individuals within the team."

On top of building a competitive side, Gaye has also had to get used to his sudden elevation to head coach.

Gaye was given the reins of the national team shortly before the start of the Strasbourg event on July 21, when the Senegalese Sports Ministry decided to sack Abdou N'Diaye for "abandoning his position" after he suffered an Achilles tendon injury in May.

He added: "It's been a difficult time for us because I found out I was taking over from Abdou only 48 hours before we came to Strasbourg.

"The preparation in that sense has been disturbed greatly, but we know what we have to do."

Senegal will play two other tournaments in Lithuania and Abidjan, where they will face the Ivory Coast and Nigeria before the FIBA World Championship tips off on August 19.

Isabelle Rondeau
PA Sport, Exclusively for FIBA.com

13/07/2006

JOR - Palma upbeat about new challenge with Jordan

::WIN a trip to the FIBA World Championship Finals weekend :

AMMAN (FIBA World Championship) - Jordan must be rubbing their hands in glee over the appointment of Mario Palma as their men's national team coach.

Angola's legendary boss failed to reach agreement on a new contract with the African giants ahead of the FIBA World Championship and fell into the Jordanians' laps.

A coach with an incredible string of success in both Portugal and Angola in his career, the announcement he would not lead the African champions in Japan this summer came as a shock to a lot of people in the international basketball community.

"They (FAB - Angolan Basketball Federation) only wanted me to lead the Angolan side for two years," Palma said to PA Sport.

"Basically, I would be reduced to heading the team to the next African championship [to be staged next year in Angola] and qualifying them to the next Olympic games.

"It wasn't enough for me."

When asked about missing out on the biggest basketball tournament in the world, Palma responded: "Not going to Japan is not a blow in my career."

Palma, 56, is enthusiastic about his new job with Jordan.

"I'm going to a very serious and good project," he said. "I believe I can do very interesting things in Jordan. They (Jordanian Basketball authorities) have introduced to me a serious project for the basketball in that area of Asia.

"All I'll have to do is give my knowledge and my willingness to build a strong side. They have a very positive vision of the things they want to do, which makes me happy.

"It's a nice project.

"I haven't begun to work there yet, but I recognise the country has some potential to develop its game."

In the beginning

Palma's parents are from Portugal but he was born in Bissau, the capital of Guinea Bissau, the former Portuguese colony.

His father was serving in the military there but the family moved to Angola when Mario Palma was just one.

He lived in the country most of his life and took his first steps in the game and even though he is no longer in charge of the national side, it's likely he will return to work in the country.

That Palma would leave had everyone scratching their heads because his name is synonymous with titles.

He coached Benfica in Portugal in the 1980s and 90s and won everything with that team which included Angolan great Jean Jacques Conceicao and Carlos Lisboa, the best Portuguese player ever.

Palma also led Estrella de Avenida in the Portuguese top flight after a stint with that team, he moved back to Angola in 1997.

Then, for a seven-year stretch, he set the standard for coaching excellence in the country, winning 25 titles.

He captured crowns in the Angolan national league, won the Super Cup, the African Champions League and the major continent title, the African championship.

"When I took over the Angolan national side, the team had just lost the African title," he said.

"I made some changes and we began winning titles again.

"It happened on the national team and also at the 1 de Agosto - the team did not win a title for a long time and I was able to change it.

"Basically in the seven years, I won 25 titles in Angola."

Palma will have language and cultural hurdles to clear in Jordan.

He expects to do so, and to put the country on the international basketball map.

"All these changes can be made with hard work," he said.

"This is what I'm going to do in Jordan. I want to be number one over there.

"I have no doubts I'll change the face of Jordanian basketball.

"The main element for that is very simple. We'll need to be very competitive and create discipline in our work group.

"I'm prepared to be attacked by the press because of some changes I hope to make, but I'm already used to it. It happened to me in Angola and Portugal, but as result we won titles."

The confident Palma fully believes Jordan will improve, and he knows his bosses expect the team to reach the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

"For the next Olympics, to reach them, we'll have hard work to do," he said.

"It will not be easy to face teams like Japan or South Korea. China would be a headache, but they are already qualified.

"The growth of Asian basketball is my main concern. We are still on time to get to our opponents' level.

"I'll have tough work, but hope to get a happy ending, which could have a strong impact in the basketball world."

Reflecting on Angola

It will be strange seeing Angola in Japan without Palma, their leader for so many years.

Palma believes Alberto Carvalho, his replacement, is inheriting a good situation.

"I have left the Angola national team restructured well and with a very good profile.

"When we started preparing Angola for the World Championship, I believed we could have a very good tournament in Japan.

"I still believe they will be able to do it, because I know those players very well and I don't believe there are too many players on the planet with their capacity to make sacrifices.

"We have spent weeks, months of our lives far from our relatives.

"These are the best players I've ever met in my entire career. I'm already missing them."

Palma did not want to discuss the new technical staff or the new players who have been brought into the team.

"My goal as Angolan coach was to get through the next round and to keep winning games," he said.

"The Angolan players are more experienced now. Joaquim Gomes and Abdel Bouckar may make a positive difference.

"Generally, the Angolan side is already at an advanced level.

"They will have a great tournament."

One day, Palma will be back in Africa.

"Obviously, I will consider a return to Angola, but not now," he said. "One day, I think I'll be back to manage a team.

"I'll be available to cope with FAB (Angolan Basketball Federation) in what they will need. I leave there with too many friends."

He may even coach Portugal's national side one day.

"I may work in Portugal as a club coach but heading the national team is not in my plans now," he said.

"Maybe later."

By Julio Chitunda
PA Sport Exclusively for FIBA


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