0139 GMT January 18, 2021
Iran’s head coach Mehran Shahintab’ acknowledged his players are “far from fitness” as his team prepares for the FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers.
The second window of the Group E of the qualifiers will kick off in Qatar on November 28.
Iran’s 15-man squad began preparations under Shahintab’ last Saturday.
Speaking to Mehr News Agency, Shahintab’ said, “The coronavirus circumstances have surely affected the players, as they’ve been facing restrictions for training and playing for months, so they’re far from ideal conditions. That’s the same situation for our opponents.”
Star duo Hammed Haddadi and Samad Nik-Khah Bahrami will be missing the event in Qatar as Haddadi is engaged in the Chinese Basketball Association league with Sichuan Blue Whales, while the latter is recovering from COVID-19.
The Iranian manager, however, seems unfazed by the absence of the two key figures.
“This is not the first time we’re missing them for a tournament. We played World Cup qualifiers against the Philippines and Australia without them in the side.
“We really wanted to have them in the camp but Hamed would have faced a two-week quarantine on his return to China. Samad, meanwhile, is yet to regain physical strength to resume training.”
Shahintab’ added he is optimistic British-Iranian Aaron Geramipour and Mike Rostampour will fill in for the missing duo.
Sitting atop the four-team group with a perfect record after two rounds of play, Iran will resume its campaign against Saudi Arabia before taking on Syria – second in the group – two days later.
Qatar is the other team in Group E.
After three windows, the top two teams of the six groups will qualify for the Asia Cup.
The six third-placed teams will advance to play a final qualifying tournament in February 2021 with the top four from this tournament being given a place in the competition.