Two Qatar teams — Katara and Doha — are all set to take part in the FIBA 3x3 World Tour season-opening Doha Masters, which will held at the Katara Amphitheater today and tomorrow.
This is the first World Tour event to be played in Doha, which has previously hosted the FIBA 3x3 All Stars. The 12 participating teams will compete for $75,000 and points to climb up the World Tour standings.
Unlike last year, the Masters events winners will not qualify directly for the World Tour Final. The top 12 teams in the standings after the last Masters event in Utsunomiya, Japan, will head to the final, to be held at the same venue on November 2-3.
“It’s a pleasure to be here in Qatar once again. We have been coming to Qatar since 2013, very successfully. It is the first time we are organising World Tour in Qatar. This is the first event of the season and we have a record-high 12 teams for this season, which is an extended one,” FIBA 3x3 director Ignacio Soriano said yesterday.
“We have top teams ready for the show, which will be held from April to October this year so that the teams can get year-long exposure for more than US $1 million prize-money in the season,” he said.
Talking about the game’s debut in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics he said: “Yes… next year is Olympic year so this season is important for the players to earn ranking points.”
He also expressed his best wishes for Qatar teams in the event.
“The entire world will be watching Qatar this weekend. Qatar was 2014 World Champion and again we expect Doha teams to succeed in the event,” he said.
Serbian team Liman, who won three Masters events last year, have been seeded No.1 and will be pitted in Pool A against Pasig Chooks from basketball-crazy Philippines. The team will feature familiar faces in ex-Novi Sad player Nikola Pavlovic and French star Angelo Tsagarakis. Local hopeful Katara makes it a very interesting group.
After a bitter end to a brilliant 2018, where they stunningly lost in the quarter-finals in the Bloomage Final in Beijing, Liman will be out to make an early statement and will play Katara to open the event today.
However, Liman will be without their star player Stefan Stojacic aka ‘Mr Robot’ who sustained a right calf injury and is out for six weeks.
“We are eagerly waiting for the start of the season and are ready for it. We hope to start on a winning note,” Liman’s Alksandar Ratkov said.
Liman’s main challengers for the title will be fellow Serbs Novi Sad, who remained unbeaten last year. They won 32 straight games to stamp their authority, but this season they will have to step it up another level to stay ahead of the pack.
Novi Sad are seeded second and headline Pool B alongside Tokyo Dime from Japan and Doha.
No.3 seed, Riga Ghetto from Latvia, who lost the decider of the Bloomage Beijing Final to Novi Sad last year, are in Pool C and face a mouth-watering clash against No.6 seed Moscow Inanomo while Balanga Chooks from the Philippines round out the group.
Pool D looms as the group of death and will be a Slovenian showdown with No.4 seed Piran and No.5 seed Ljubljana headlining. No.12 seed Mount-Royal U McGill from Canada — who won the FISU World University League last year — will be looking to spoil the party.
“I am very excited to see World Tour come to Doha. It will be my first time to play at this level. I think it will be very challenging as all the top teams are here,” Doha team’s Nedim Muslic said.
Speaking on the occasion, Qatar Basketball Federation secretary-general Ali al-Malki said, “We welcome all the teams for the season-opener in Doha. We also have our teams and hope they will do well in the tournament to start the season on a good note.”
(From left) Liman player Alksandar Ratkov, FIBA 3x3 director Ignacio Soriano, Qatar Basketball Federation secretary-general Ali al-Malki and Doha player Nedim Muslic at a pre-event press conference on the eve of the FIBA 3x3 World Tour Doha Masters yesterday. PICTURES: Othman Khalid