Remembering the 1995 Falcons and their first Asia Cup appearance

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(Photos: Tala Al-Mauj)
AMMAN — The Jordanian women’s national team has a 26-year history, starting with the FIBA Asia Cup held in 1995, in Shizuoka, Japan. The team will take to the court for the FIBA Asia Cup again when Jordan hosts the tournament on November 7 to 13, but the 1995 appearance at one point hung by a thread. اضافة اعلان

Jordan participated in the 1996 FIBA Asia Cup U-18, in Bangkok, and at the 2013 FIBA Asia Cup U-16, in Colombo, while the 22nd version of the championship for U-18 was hosted by Jordan in 2014 and was the last time the women’s team participated in the event. 

During the late Awad Haddad’s time as head of the Jordan Basketball Federation (JBF), the JBF decided to assemble a team for the 1995 FIBA Asia Cup being held in Japan. The team would be placed under the management of national coach Fadi Sabbah at the time. However, the endeavor faced obstacles at the time, most crucially, a lack of funding.

Writer Aline Bannayan wrote an article that published in the Jordan Times, in which she mentioned that the women’s team would not be able to travel to Japan because the team needed to secure about JD5,000. 

(Photos: Tala Al-Mauj)

Only a few hours after the article was published, the JBF received a phone call from the office of HRH Prince Hassan, who read the article and, along with HRH Princess Saravath Hassan, offered to cover the costs so that the team could represent Jordan at the Asia Cup. The gesture is not unusual for the Hashemite family, led His Majesty King Abdullah, a permanent supporter of Jordanian youth and sports.

Former coach Sabbah said at the time: “In recognition of the support and generous contribution of HRH Hassan and his wife HRH Princess Saravath, we’ve given back a basketball signed by all the players and management of the team.”  

As the women’s team is getting ready for the long-awaited return of the FIBA Asia Cup, Jordan News spoke with former coach Sabbah, who said that at the time 80 percent of the team’s success “was just our appearance at the championship. I am very proud in the new generation and I will encourage them in Amman, and I trust the basketball federation and the plan they have to develop the women’s basketball team, so that Jordan will always participate in the Asia Basketball Cup.”  

Former player Tala Al-Mawj, a lawyer and a former member of the JBF, said: “In 1995, for a young Jordanian female player, the Women’s Asia Basketball Cup in Japan was a faraway dream, but the dream became reality thanks to the endless efforts of those who believed in the Jordan women’s basketball team.” 

“Our coach at the time, Fadi Sabbah, did everything in his power for the team and he kept giving us hope and support despite financial, social, and logistic difficulties. Up until the very last minute, we did not know if we were going to make the trip to Japan or not.”

She said that the team managed to win one of their matches at that competition, but the experience, excitement, and adrenaline rush were good enough, and the whole experience was “overwhelming”. 

“I think it was a turning point in our lives,” she said. 

The team went on to lose all of their matches until they beat Indonesia 85-55 in their last match, securing fifth place in their group. “The victory was one of its kind; a feeling I will cherish forever, despite all the physical pain and injuries, and the stress,” Mawj said.

Sirsa Naghwai, another basketball player on the 1995 team said that while decision-makers in sports often only want to win medals or titles. But the joy of sports comes from “competing and the love of the game, and the opportunity to meet new people and get to know new cultures. ... these are the real reasons why we love and play the game,” she said. 

“I enjoyed being part of the Jordanian team that played in Japan in 1995, and I hope every Jordanian player gets the same opportunity.”

The 1995 team’s journey, which seemed to hang by a thread until a Royal gesture saved the team’s prospects to represent Jordan at the Asia Cup in Japan for the first time, was recently documented by the FIBA’s former head of communications Mageshwaran Saba.

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