Lebanon’s talismanic basketball player Fadi al-Khatib admitted Wednesday that he was unlikely to appear at the FIBA World Championships in Turkey next month due to a lack of match fitness.
Khatib also pledged his desire to stay with current club Champville despite reports of a transfer back to Riyadi, citing his relationship with coach Ghassan Sarkis as a key reason for staying with the club.
Khatib successfully completed an operation last week but fears he will not be able to gain 100 percent fitness in time for the tournament that starts in late August. “I will be starting my [physical] preparation at the end of [July] so hopefully it will take me three weeks to a month [to recover],” he told The Daily Star.
With coach Tab Baldwin taking charge of the national team two months ago, Khatib is also aware that he may not fit into the coach’s new system that has been successfully implemented in Khatib’s absence at the William Jones Cup in Taiwan.
“I don’t know about [my participation at] the World Championships because there are many questions [to answer],” Khatib told The Daily Star.
“With the new coach, there is a worry that I won’t fit into the new system, I have been away for two months and I don’t know if I can come straight back from [an operation] and into a World Championship.”
Rumors have surrounded Khatib’s participation in Turkey with many believing that the Champville forward is not willing to work with Baldwin though Khatib was keen to stress that there were no problems between himself and Baldwin.
“He is a good person and he has done a lot in his life as a basketball coach so hopefully he will be right for the national team,” Khatib said. “We always want the best for the national team and I hope [he does well].”
Regarding his commitment to Champville, Khatib stressed that he had never considered leaving the club he had joined 12 months ago.
“I’m very happy at Champville,” Khatib said. “I am very happy to work with coach Ghassan Sarkis whom I have known for ages and is a major [reason for my decision].
“Champville as a club is amazing with amazing management. It’s so professional and I think our chances [of winning the Championship] are very high,” Khatib added.
Champville finished runner up last season to Riyadi and Khatib is confident that with the right signings, Champville can win the league next season.
“We didn’t have the right imports [last season] and we lost some very close games. We won the Lebanese Cup against Riyadi and that is definitely a sign of building a better team.”
Despite opening an “El Khatib Academy” in Talet Khayat next month and spending time running a shipping firm, Khatib doesn’t plan to retire any time soon. “I won’t be retiring for another four or five years. I am only 30; there is still time to continue,” he said.
Lebanon enters its third consecutive World Championships in Turkey next month with The Cedars finally looking to break out of the group stages that have so far eluded them. Its 5-1 win record in the recent William Jones Cup has given Lebanese basketball fans hope while a successful Stankovic Cup in two weeks time could further galvanize The Cedars.(Eish Mondial)