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Haddadi Keen on Welcoming Fans on Home Ground

Haddadi Keen on Welcoming Fans on Home GroundHaddadi Keen on Welcoming Fans on Home Ground

Veteran superstar Hamed Haddadi cannot wait for the third window of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Asian Qualifiers, which he sees as an opportunity to welcome his native Iranians back to “our house”.

According to FIBA website, Haddadi just turned 33 but the center still leads Iran in efficiency in the qualifiers at 26.5 as he averaged 17.5 points in the second window to go with the team bests of 14.5 rebounds and 2.0 blocks as well as 3.5 assists and 2.0 steals.

“I play tough and hard for any team for which I play. But with the national team jersey you are representing 80 million people and the responsibility is different. You play for your national team, for pride, not for anything else,” said Haddadi, who has guided Iran to five podium finishes at the FIBA AsiaCup - including the titles in 2007, 2009 and 2013 - and also appeared at the World Cup in 2010 and 2014 World Cup as well as the 2008 Olympic Men’s Basketball Tournament.

The third and final window of the First Round of the Qualifiers will be played in June-July. Iran is atop Group D, even on record with Kazakhstan but with the edge over the Central Asian team after beating it 75-54 in February.

Haddadi and Iran will face Qatar on June 29 and then return home to play Kazakhstan on July 2.

 Amazing Fans

Haddadi loves playing for his country in front of his own family and friends. “Amazing, simply amazing. I want the next window to start as soon as possible so we can play again in our house,” he said. “I played in big arenas at the Olympics, in the NBA, the CBA in China, but it’s not the same feeling. People from every part of Iran plan to come and attend the game.”

Knowing that Iran has played in the last two world cups, Haddadi said the country really needs to qualify for a third straight. “It’s very important for Iranian basketball to play again at the world stage. The Olympics and World Cup are the best level of international competition and every country will benefit from it,” he said.

But Iranian basketball also has a major chance to benefit from the process of getting to the World Cup - namely with the qualifiers at home. “More games give more experience to everyone, but I see another angle to it which is good for sponsors in Iranian basketball. People who want to invest in the sport get the chance to see basketball and how exciting it is. With more investments and sponsorships, Iranian basketball can benefit,” Haddadi explained.

Iran has already hosted two home games in the qualifiers and the third one is coming up in a little over a month. Looking ahead to that time, Haddadi has just one thing to say: “See you in my house!”

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