“It’s been an amazing feeling, an amazing ride. 不幸, we finished second, but seeing the support and the happiness we brought to Lebanon made us feel like we won the tournament.”
The FIBA Asia Cup, which takes place every four years, sees teams across Asia and Oceania go head to head for the title of Asian champion.
The ultimate underdog
Australia is ranked third in the world by FIBA, trailing only the United States and Spain, so Lebanon was the ultimate underdog in the final. Ten out of the 12 team members had never even played in the Asia Cup before, according to Arakji.
Arakji was awarded Most Valuable Player of the tournament
26 每场积分. The team’s triumphs have offered a moment of hope and joy for a country gripped by a devastating financial crisis
The Lebanese economy has been in tatters since
2019, with the national currency losing over
90% 其价值. 一个 UN report estimates that four of every five of the population are living below the poverty line
. Widespread shortages of water
, 电, medicine and other basic necessities have become commonplace
. The World Bank considers it to be one of the world’s worst economic crises since the mid-19th century
Arakji tells CNN the tournament run signifies so much more than sport for his team and his country.
“Being able to reach second in Asia right now shows that Lebanon will never die,” 他说. “There will always be people that will fight for Lebanon — fight for the Lebanese flag no matter what happens.”
The World Bank has called the situation in Lebanon a
” orchestrated by the country’s ruling elite
, so when political leaders jumped on the bandwagon to congratulate the team on its success
, Arakji wasn’t interested
In response to Prime Minister Najib Mikati offering his praise on local radio after the team beat China
, Arakji replied to a Facebook post of Mikati’s comments
, 说, “Tell him we don’t need his congratulations and we’re trying to clean the s**t he and his fellow politicians put us in
. 所以 [if
] he can keep his mouth shut
, it’ll be better.
“I needed to write that because we don’t need them to ride the wave,” Arakji told CNN.
“People in Lebanon are fighting for a living. People in Lebanon are dying on a daily basis … So as a basketball player, as a public figure, I had to send a message to the Prime Minister and to all politicians: There are a lot of things you guys should take care about other than just congratulating us.”
Despite the turmoil engulfing his country, Arakji says his main focus is to keep pushing forward as a team.
“We showed the world that a small team from a small country from a very ordinary league can fight and can dominate big teams at some point … We set the bar high, so we need to meet the expectation and keep getting better on a daily basis. I believe the sky is the limit.”