Early Wake-Up Calls Help

Kazemi: Losing to Iraq in the first game was very disappointing, but it’s good that it happened so early to wake us up and show us that no game will come easy
Arsalan kazemi signing a ball for a young fanArsalan kazemi signing a ball for a young fan

Iran national basketball player Arsalan Kazemi believes every game in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Asian Qualifiers will be tough. That is why he was happy that he and his teammates got a wake-up call right out of the gates.

Iran’s first qualifier in November came against Iraq. The opponent showed no fear of the long-time Asian power and Iran lost the first game 74-66.

“It was very disappointing, but it’s good that it happened so early to wake us up and show us that no game will come easy just because we are the Iranian national team,” said the 2.01m forward Kazemi, who had seven points and seven rebounds in the loss. “We have to earn every victory and the teams that come to face us are extra motivated and looking for an upset”.

“When you lose a game you can come up with all the excuses you can to cover it up, but in that game we didn’t play like Iran and the Iraqi team played better than us,” the 27-year-old said.

According to, the three-time Asian champions bounced back in fine form with a 65-39 blowout of Qatar in front of their home supporters in Tehran.

“The second game we came together as a team and played much better and obviously we wanted to have a good showing in front of our fans,” said Kazemi, who picked up four points, 17 rebounds and five assists against Qatar.

Kazemi said the qualifiers are a good testing ground for the next group of Iranian talents to show they are ready to step into some pretty big footsteps of a generation of stars that brought the country to huge heights in the game - including Hamed Haddadi, Mahdi Kamrani and Samad Nikkhah-Bahrami.

“They were all great players, but obviously Haddadi is on a different level and everyone knows that. And it will be very tough without him if he decides to retire from the national team,” said Kazemi, who has played with Haddadi at two FIBA Basketball World Cups, the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament 2016 and two FIBA Asia Cups.

Kazemi is a couple years older than the next group of players who will need to be future leaders such as Behnam Yakhchali, Sajjad Mashayekhi and Mohammad Jamshidi.

  Platform for Youngsters

“The young guys have a lot of talent but they need more experience especially Behnam and Sajjad. They are both 23 years old - very young and talented and they have a lot of years to play and they will be the future of the Iranian basketball,” he said.

There is also 22-year-old Vahid Dalirzahan who had 10 points against Qatar, while 25-year-old Meisam Mirzaei had 14 points, four rebounds and two steals versus Qatar.

The Iranian team also included 21-year-old Navid Rezaeifar, who played three minutes against Qatar and picked up one steal. “I like him. He is young and he can score the basketball as good as anyone on the team,” Kazemi said of Rezaeifar, who played on the world stage already at the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup 2015. “He has a bright future”.

After not playing in the Iraq game, the youngsters all got to play against Qatar and showed what they are capable of - thanks also to the leadership cues from Kazemi. “I have been an all-around player my entire career, and I will continue to do the same and become more of leader and help the young guys improve and push them to go harder every day”.

Iran is in group D of qualifiers with Iraq, Qatar and Kazakhstan. With one win and one defeat, Iranian national team is on the third place after Kazakhstan and Iraq which are first and second respectively.

The national squad will play Kazakhstan on February 22, 2018 and then on Feb. 25, June 29, and July 2 will again line up against Iraq, Qatar and Kazakhstan respectively.

With participation of 32 teams, the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup will be held at eight venues in China, August 31-September 15, 2019.

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