Zarko Paspalj on Serbian national team: 'I think we need a foreigner'

2022-08-08 05:46

Serbian basketball is in an interesting situation currently. Previously known as the powerhouse of European basketball, the country is now on the verge of not going to the 2023 FIBA World Cup for the first time in the national team's history.

Serbia hasn't qualified for three of the last four Olympic Games. During the last 13 years, the national team has won four medals in major competitions - all silvers. Talking with MaxBet Radio, Serbian basketball legend Zarko Paspalj expressed his dissatisfaction with the current situation.

"Things in our national team have not been right for a long time," Paspalj said. "We warned about all this a long time ago, Duda [Dusan Ivkovic]  pointed out these problems 15 years ago. The work we were known for is gone. We are a country of basketball, but the question is in which direction we are going."

"The first sign of a bad situation was that we did not go to the Olympic Games," he continued. "Now, there are problems in the World Cup Qualifiers where even if we had won against Belgium, the question remains how it would all go on. It will be difficult. I fear whether we will qualify for the upcoming Olympic Games. Nothing happened overnight."

Serbia now sits in 5th place out of 6 teams with a one-and-three win-loss record in the Second Round of World Cup Qualifiers after having lost the last game of the First Round against Belgium. In a group that features potent basketball squads of Turkey, Latvia, and Greece, Serbia is in a tough spot for advancing to the World Cup.

Paspalj offers a solution that he thinks would help the team in the long run.

"I think we need a foreigner," he suggested. "He would make a difference and influence us to win gold instead of silver at two major competitions. We needed a foreigner at the four position, which was very critical for us, but we didn't want him. I can't understand that."

"We are in a very difficult situation and we need all the help we can get. I can't understand why we are the only ones who avoid using that card," Paspalj expressed his frustration. "I say again, that's my opinion, we also have an example in women's basketball where we achieved great results largely because we had foreigners, so no one said a foreigner won the medal, but the Serbian national team."

Serbian women's basketball team recruited American guard Yvonne Anderson back in 2020. With her help, Serbia became the champions of Europe in 2021 and reached the semifinal stage of the Olympic Games.

With Lorenzo Brown arriving to help the Spanish national team this summer, Paspalj also mentions the well-known example of Slovenia. Anthony Randolph was part of the EuroBasket-winning team in 2017, while Mike Tobey helped the country get to the semifinals in the Tokyo Olympic Games last summer.

"You also have Slovenia, which was greatly helped by a foreigner to achieve historic results," Paspalj mentioned. "This situation requires serious thinking and action. The results of the national team affect the interest of children in basketball in Serbia."

The upcoming FIBA World Cup Qualifiers window will most likely be fate-deciding for Serbia as it will face Greece with Giannis Antetokounmpo on the roster on August 25th, and fully-loaded Turkey on August 28th.



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