One of world’s most famous basketballers and a member of international sporting royalty is set to return to New Zealand next week, ahead of the FIBA Women’s Olympic Qualifying Event between the Sky Sport Tall Ferns, China, Philippines and South Korea.
NBA legend and former Chinese national player, Yao Ming, has confirmed his attendance for the event with Basketball New Zealand.
Yao Ming is President of the China Basketball Association (CBA) and also the Chairman of FIBA Asia. Part of his plans will be to support of the Chinese women’s national team, a powerhouse team in Asia basketball. They are seventh in the world and former Olympic medallists. The China team recently won Silver at the Asia Cup, just missing out on Gold when they lost to world number three ranked Australia, 69-70. The CBA will be hoping their national women’s side will be a medal prospect in Tokyo 2020. China are favourites heading into next week’s event and the CBA will see this Olympic Qualifying series as important preparation.
The last time Yao travelled to New Zealand was when the China men’s national team played the Tall Blacks at a sold-out Spark Arena in July 2018. Basketball New Zealand Chief Executive Iain Potter says that it’s great to see Yao returning and the relationship with the CBA is continuing to strengthen, particularly after the FIBA World Cup.
“The Tall Blacks are well known to China basketball fans and appreciated over there. When New Zealand basketball teams travel there, the players are sought out for autographs and national Chinese media cover the team. At the World Cup just gone, only three teams had all of their first-round pool games shown live on CCTV5’s main channel: China, USA and the New Zealand Tall Blacks. That’s another sign of how the team has a wonderful presence in China.
“Women’s basketball is on the rise their too and their players are some of the best. We know Yao Ming has expressed an interest in seeing more games between China and New Zealand, so we look forward to hosting him and potentially discussing the future together,” said Potter.
Burton Shipley, a member of the FIBA executive committee, says Yao Ming’s presence in New Zealand is a sign of that relationship between the two national federations.
“I have enjoyed working with Yao Ming through our roles at FIBA and I must say that he is doing tremendous work for the game, both in China and throughout Asia. His influence cannot be understated and the fact that he is returning to New Zealand shows that he holds the country and basketball here in high regard,” says Mr Shipley.
Mr Potter says hosting Yao last year was a big deal.
“He really is a force. His last visit was widely reported both here and throughout China, and interest in his visit was high. We enjoyed hosting him and we managed to get him away from the crowds here, so he enjoyed his time with us. At one point we hosted him at a classic Kiwi barbecue on a north Auckland farm. I think he appreciated our style of doing things and we will be offering that hospitality again for this visit too,” said Mr Potter.
The FIBA Women’s Olympic Qualifying event will be the first time in four years that fans will see the Sky Sport Tall Ferns play in New Zealand. These are big games with each team fighting for a spot at the Olympics – the top two teams from the event will go through to the next round of qualifications in February.
- Tickets at Ticketek.co.nz, starting from only $8.50: https://premier.ticketek.co.nz/shows/show.aspx?sh=FIBAWO19
- Thurs 14 Nov, 5pm: KOREA V CHINA
- Thurs 14 Nov, 7:30pm. NEW ZEALAND V PHILIPPINES
- Sat 16 Nov, 3pm. PHILIPPINES V KOREA
- Sat 16 Nov, 5:30pm. CHINA V NEW ZEALAND
- Sun 17 Nov, 3pm. PHILIPPINES V CHINA
- Sun 17 Nov, 5:30pm. KOREA V NEW ZEALAND
- The Trust’s Arena. 65-67 Central Park Dr, Henderson, Auckland
(Photo Credit: Getty Images)