Qualifiers a great opportunity to increase interest in basketball, says Yergali
ASTANA (FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Asian Qualifiers) - Veteran Kazakhstan wingman Rustam Yergali is upbeat about the World Cup 2019 Qualifiers, especially how it magnifies interest in the game.
"I like the format of the Qualification Games," he said. "This is a great opportunity to increase interest in basketball in all corners of the world. When world basketball comes to home grounds and fans can see world-class basketball, this is an incredible opportunity for both players and basketball fans. In turn, the players of the national team can feel the colossal support of compatriots."
This is something he has seen first-hand in the first two windows of the Asian Qualifiers, especially in their last three fixtures, all of which were held at the Saryaka Republican Cycle Track in Astana. Yergali recalled how the fans trooped to the arena and gave their full-fledged support to the Steppe Wolves
"We felt unity with the audience and realized that together we defend the country on the international sports arena, stating that Kazakhstan is able to show its beautiful game and power," he remembered.
This aspect of playing home games - a key aspect in the New Competition System - provides great avenues for the game to expand and evolve all over the globe, and it's something Yergali himself believes has great potential, especially when the young fans are there to watch the games and grow their own fandom of the sport.
"It's good that basketball came to our country, and I'm happy to show how we play basketball and how the national team play," he said. "This is good so that people can see, especially the young people who are engaged in it, who like the sport, so that they can continue this tradition, follow us, and even be better than us in the future."
Yergali is aware that the national team's future hangs in the balance in terms of how they will continue to fare in the Asian Qualifiers, especially as they head into the third window and, eventually, the second round, where they are sure to face perennial regional contenders Philippines and global powerhouse Australia. The veteran guard, though, believes they have what it takes to continue doing well and continue gaining wins.
"There is always a chance, and the national team of Kazakhstan will confidently demonstrate it," he declared. "We are making good progress in the qualifying windows, in my opinion. Now, it would be nice to strengthen our chances of getting to the World Cup 2019 by adding experienced foreign players, but, nevertheless, we are ready to play with what we have today and, of course, with the help of an experienced coach who can lead us to victories. We strive for new victories and we are sure that everything will turn out well."
Regardless of the results, however, the 6ft 4in (1.92m) backcourt player just continues to feel fortunate about still being part of the national team. Yergali actually debuted way back in the FIBA Asia Cup 2005, and his experience has helped make him a capable team captain.
"I’m a patriot of my country and I’m proud of the opportunity to play for the country," he said. "To be the captain of the national team, to represent the homeland at the international arenas is a manifestation of patriotism for me, and I’m sure for each player of the National team. I think that any athlete would be pleased when he is invited to the national team, and this is the highest reward for any player."