Basketball Australia withdraws Boomers from Iran qualifier due to player safety concerns | Sport


Basketball Australia has cited player safety concerns for its decision to withdraw the men’s national team from an upcoming World Cup qualifier in Iran.

Following the defeat of Kazakhstan that sealed their spot in next year’s tournament, the Boomers had been due to travel to Tehran and meet Iran on Tuesday (AEDT). Instead, the side will return to Australia and await instructions from FIBA as to whether the match will be rescheduled elsewhere.

“Basketball Australia have conducted a thorough risk assessment in conjunction with relevant authorities and as a result we will not be sending any teams into Iran at this time,” a statement read.

A series of protests erupted in Iran following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was allegedly violently arrested by the country’s Guidance Patrol in September for failing to wear her hijab properly. She died in custody three days after falling into a coma.

Currently, Iran is one of 19 countries to which the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade advises Australians not to travel.

“Protests continue around the country and there’s been an increase in the number of foreign nationals arrested,” DFAT’s advice reads. “Medical evacuation may be difficult. If you’re in Iran, we recommend you leave. Airlines may cancel or reduce their operations to and from Iran at short notice.”

A representative told AAP that Basketball Australia had informed FIBA of its safety concerns prior to the current round of qualifiers. Basketball Australia said they would not have travelled to Iran regardless of whether they had defeated Kazakhstan to confirm their spot at the World Cup.

FIBA has been contacted for comment.

The decision to withdraw will not affect Australia’s qualification for the World Cup, set to be held across Japan, Indonesia and the Philippines from August next year.

Australia have won all nine of their games on the road to the World Cup and are currently set to play Bahrain and Kazakhstan in February for the sixth round of qualifiers.

Earlier on Saturday, Australia punched their ticket to the 2023 FIBA World Cup in style with a dominant 97-50 win over Kazakhstan at the Republican Velodrome in Astana.

Led by FIBA Asia Cup gold medal-winning head coach Mike Kelly, Australia led from start to finish to reach their 13th FIBA World Cup, to be played in Indonesia, Japan and the Philippines from August 25 to September 10 next year.

Australia raced to a 31-point quarter-time lead holding their hosts to just 15 per cent shooting from the field and eight points through 10 minutes. The Boomers shared the load with not a single player hitting double figures as they put up 39 points in the opening term.

Kazakhstan rallied at quarter-time and enjoyed their highest scoring run of the game with eight consecutive points but the Boomers wrangled back momentum to boast a 33-point margin at the main break.

By the third quarter, every single member of Australia’s roster had scored in the contest as their margin grew to 41 points. The Boomers then put on a further 19 points to prevail by 47 with Sam Froling leading all scorers with an 18 point, 11 rebound double-double.