King Abdullah II basketball tournament kicks off with eight teams

Jordan's national basketball team celebrates winning the King Abdullah II tournament in 2007. [Ali al-Rawashdah/Al-Shorfa]

Jordan's national basketball team celebrates winning the King Abdullah II tournament in 2007. [Ali al-Rawashdah/Al-Shorfa]

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The King Abdullah II International Basketball Tournament returns to Jordan after a two-year absence that resulted from an administrative and financial crisis inside the Jordan Basketball Association.

The eighth edition of the tournament will be held July 21-27 at Prince Hamza Hall in al-Hussein Youth City where eight teams will compete.

The tournament draws exceptional attendance in the Arab world and is considered one of the most popular in the region.

Officials released the tournament's schedule, and the teams are divided into two groups. The first group consists of Jordan, Lebanon, Kuwait and Algeria, and the second includes Egypt, Palestine, Belarus and Tunisia. Jordan won the title twice, in 2004 and 2007.

Hilal Barakat, president of the Jordanian Basketball Association, said, "The tournament is regarded as a successful sporting event in the region because of its exceptional organisation and high technical level of participating teams. We hope the tournament attains a high degree of excellence to prove that Jordanian basketball is alive and well after the administrative and financial problems it faced recently."

He said the tournament follows a long period of stagnation that afflicted all aspects of basketball at the local level. Local tournaments were not held when the previous association was dissolved. The national team did not play locally and participated only in international tournaments, a source of frustration for Jordanians who were eager to see the sport's stars play on the home court.

"The competition aims to draw the public back to the basketball arena, as well as prepare the national team for the Asian Championship finals in China," Barakat said.

The Asia Championship finals, where the Jordanian team will attempt to qualify for the 2012 London Olympics, will be held in September.

Ramzi al-Karmi, the tournament director, said the association is currently putting the finishing touches on the event.

"The opening ceremony segments are set, and it will include an introduction of the participating teams, a welcome speech by the association president, and several art segments that celebrate Jordan's folklore and heritage," he said.

Ghaith al-Najjar, the association secretary and a former coach, expects the tournament to feature strong competition between the teams, noting the parity among them.

"From my experience in training, the tournament will provide all teams with an opportunity to prepare for the upcoming official qualifiers, particularly as coaches consider skill development to be as important as the competitive aspects," al-Najjar said.