The 2019 Asia Oceania Championships in Pattaya, Thailand will be only the third appearance at a major international tournament for the Iranian women’s team, a team relatively new on the international scene making their first appearance only two years ago.
A member of the team that made their debut at the 2017 Asia Oceania Championships in Beijing, China, was Iran’s captain Fattaneh Pourat, who first found a passion for wheelchair basketball over 15 years ago. She said:
“Since early 2004 I was interested in this sport. That was a time when there were almost no female wheelchair basketballers in our country, but watching this sport among the male teams fascinated me. I waited some months to buy a wheelchair and from that time up to now – I am the mother of a 6-year-old boy – I have loved the excitement of wheelchair basketball and I hope to get the chance of playing at a Paralympic Games.”
In spite of Iran only participating in two previous majors, the 2017 Asia Oceania Championships and 2018 Asian Para Games, they showed they are a young team with plenty of potential as they pushed Thailand to a one-point game in the latter. A foundation they have been building on for the upcoming 2019 Asia Oceania Championships in Pattaya, Thailand.
“We had some brilliant training camps that helped us in forming a good team. My main goal is to play with the Hijab against strong female players in Asia Oceania and I hope with our young girls, we show a series of powerful matches in comparison with our former tournaments.”
The average age of the Iranian team for the Asia Oceania Championships is only 25 years old and it includes three 17-year-olds. Iran’s Head Coach, Azadehsadat Moeini, agreed with Pourat and was excited about the team selection:
“In our team we have a combination of motivated youth and technical players in addition to experienced players which have participated in previous tournaments. This is a strong line-up that passing the time will bring them a bright future, and I hope we could see the most beautiful performances from this team.”
However, she is not unaware of the challenges they face against the more established programmes such as Australia and China, adding:
“Having already experienced their power, it’s clear to say that Australia and China are the first priorities to book a place at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics, because they have detailed planning at the grassroot level (both in teen & youth) and also a constructive league. They also organise very good friendly matches at the national level that lead to upgrading the preparation of the team.
“By dominance of giants like China and Australia, reserving a ticket for Tokyo 2020 is a little far from the mind for our young team, but we hope to play acceptable matches against these teams after advancing from the group stage as the first team.”
Whatever the outcome, the championships will be a proud moment for the team Pourat added:
“Taking part at international tournaments and being among the best players is always a privilege, especially that we can try to raise the flag of our country in this competition.”
Iran will play in Division 2 against Afghanistan, Cambodia, India, and Thailand. The winner of Division 2 will then join Division 1, which consists of Japan, Australia and China, to be the 4th ranked team to make up the semi-final pairings. Iran will open their championships against Cambodia on Saturday 30th November at 12.00pm (local time).
|7||Fatemeh Moradi Gharibvand||1.5||23|
|10||Zahra Habibi Parali||2.5||33|
|55||Mahdieh Rouhani Mahmoudi||1||18|