The 12 nations scheduled to participate in the final window of Asia Cup qualifying in Doha have been notified by FIBA that the window has been canceled due to a rise in COVID-19 cases in Qatar, the Japan Basketball Association announced Friday night.
In late January, the pandemic caused the qualifying window to be shifted from Tokyo to Doha, where the teams, split into three groups of four, would have competed in a bubble.
Japan is in Group B — which was scheduled to play from Feb. 18 to 23 — with China, Malaysia and Taiwan. Malaysia and Taiwan had already pulled out of the window due to coronavirus concerns prior to the cancellation of the Doha qualifiers.
The Japanese team began a training camp at Tokyo’s National Training Center on Thursday and was scheduled to fly to Doha on Sunday.
National team members were expected to miss several games in the B. League while competing in Doha and then going into quarantine upon their return to Japan. They’ll now be available for their respective clubs this weekend.
The Julio Lamas-led national squad included Utsunomiya Brex veteran forward Kosuke Takeuchi, SeaHorses Mikawa forward Avi Koki Schafer and Alvark Tokyo guard Seiya Ando among others.
In a statement, Lamas said he was disappointed by the cancellation, since it’s been nearly a year since Japan’s last game, a 96-57 win over Taiwan on Feb. 20, 2020.
“Moving forward, we would like to make sure we prepare as well as we can for the (Tokyo) Olympics and FIBA Asia Cup,” the Argentine said. “And we will work hard to prepare with the mindset to make up for lost time during the training camps ahead of those events.”
The virus has wreaked havoc during the qualifying period, with a JBA official saying the body has not yet received further details from FIBA.
The Asia Cup finals are scheduled to be hosted in Indonesia in August.
According to Filipino reports, FIBA has already designated the Philippines and Lebanon as host nations in the revamped qualifying schedule.
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.