Jordan in the World Cup

السبت 04 أيلول 2010

By Rasheed

Use your imagination: it’s June 2026, and the Jordanian football team is participating in the World Cup for the first time ever! They are playing in the “group of death” alongside World Champions Germany, Argentina, and African Champions Cameroon. More than that, Jordanians are super lucky, for this World Cup is taking place very close to home, in Egypt! What will be the situation in Jordan during that summer? Most Jordanians will probably have been saving for a year, and will take a two-week break from work to flock to Egypt by the thousands. For the rest who can’t make it to Egypt, there will be a national holiday on every day that the team plays, so people can support their team, who has finally fulfilled “the Jordanian Dream”. Support banners and ads will take over the streets, radio and TV stations, and every other possible location. No matter what the result, we’re proud of our country!

Now let’s go back to reality, where this scene has “almost” happened, with a few modifications. Time: this summer. Location: Turkey (also pretty close and easy to travel to without a VISA). Sport: Basketball (not the world’s top-watched as in football, but somewhere close to the top*). The most important difference, however, is that less than 50% of Jordanians had known about the Basketball World Cup before it started**, an even smaller number cared to watch Jordan’s matches on TV, and I have yet to meet in person people who have taken the initiative to go to Kaysari and watch the games live. Of course, there are people who did go, but compared to how huge this event is, the number would surely be pathetic.

I am not going to go around playing the blame game (there’s no federation to put the blame on anyway). I just want to write my observations on our national team’s short participation in the World Cup, taking into account the tough circumstances they went through during the past year. I need to warn you first that I am no expert on basketball (football is my favorite sport); the last time I was an enthusiastic follower of the basketball league was during school days, back when names like Nasser Bassam and Fadi Saqqa (to mention a few) were idols, though I kept following international basketball from a distance. So please bear in mind that this text is a highly subjective blabber from the point of view of a Jordanian who watched each second of every game Jordan played with huge excitement and total support.

Musa Alwadi in the game against Germany

The big picture: I was surprised (positively). I expected worse. I was dreading the moment when our guys would play against NBA and EUROBASKET players. But these guys were up to it. Although they finished last of their tough group (with world’s #1 ranked Argentina, #5 ranked Serbia, African champions Angola, in addition to Australia and Germany), I thought they fought a good fight and gave a good impression, with some players hopefully getting international attention. They made teams such as Australia and Argentina suffer to beat them, with a one-point loss to Australia (their opening match in which they were ahead most of the time) and a 9-point difference against Argentina, with the difference getting to as little as 3 points at one time in the game. Our worst game was against Serbia with a frustrating 43 point difference. To think that a team which has not played a local league during the past year posed a threat to these big names, we should be proud. The English commentator even apologized for the Jordanian fans for having said that Argentina will probably beat Jordan with a huge point difference. The underdogs of the tournament were not an easy team to beat. Had these players been given more attention and support locally, I believe they would have made it to second round and further.

Some of the negative aspects, in my opinion, were the many fouls committed (98 in total in 5 games), though the team managed to focus more on avoiding that in their last two matches; the loss of many free throws; and most importantly the shooting: The team manages a great defense, blocks the ball, gives a great rebound and a quick offense, but then shoots the ball outside the net! These were the most frustrating moments for me. Another thing I noticed was that no player was in one constant form during all games. Most players played brilliantly in some games and terribly in others (On the positive side, the element of surprise was never absent). My opinion about the players individually goes as follows: I particularly enjoyed watching Zaid Abbaas and Mousa Alwadi, with some great unexpected moves. Ayman Idais (32 years) surprised me, especially in the game against Argentina (I really hadn’t thought the older gang was still fit for playing).  Wright was pretty good but almost abandoned scoring in the last game compared to his first, so I was disappointed. I wasn’t impressed by Doughlas until the last game against Germany in which he scored a lot, but I think that he equaled his good moments with his bad ones. Enver’s 3 pointers in the last game almost made me forget that he was invisible in the previous ones. Zaid Al-Khas, the team’s captain, didn’t do much worthy of that title, and backed this with many fouls, a bad temper, and a few “travels”. Coach Palma’s fits of anger were fun to watch. The rest did not leave a strong impression on me.

My favorite two moments in Jordan’s episode of this tournament were hearing the crowds cheer loudly for Jordan in their last game, and the three-pointer scored by Hussein in the last minute of the last game, which was his first minute of play in the whole championship (the look on his face after he scored was priceless) 🙂

I believe this tournament has put Jordan on the map of International Basketball, and has fulfilled (except for Serbia’s game) one of the team’s goals described earlier by captain Al-Khas in an interview with JO magazine last May:

“We don’t want to go there and get blown out by 40 to 50 points. We want to go there and compete. We want to try and get a surprise here and there”.

I am proud. I want to be supporting Jordan next world cup live from Spain 🙂

* Interesting piece of information based on SPORTINGO: The world’s most popular team sport is football, followed by cricket, and basketball comes in third place.
** This is not a number out of a study. I invented it based on my observations of the people around me. My belief is that it’s even less

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