Lots of athletes will tell you winning something for their country is one of the greatest achievements they can boast. The likes of Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and the late Kobe Bryant all won multiple NBA titles but all of them have described the moments spent representing the USA as some of the fondest of their career.
Ali Mansour, a 24-year-old point guard who suits up for Lebanese outfit Sporting Al Riyadi Beirut, is motivated to feel the same sort of pride that comes with taking one’s nation to the top.
Mansour, who has been playing basketball since the age of 10, spent two years playing high school basketball in the United States before returning to his homeland. He’s now the starting PG for Al Riyadi and is one of the star players in the Lebanese men’s national side, with the country harboring hopes of winning the FIBA World Cup in 2023.
The guard was interviewed by Lou Flavius of Talkbasket.net this week and discussed how big of an opportunity it is to work towards such an important goal on behalf of his country and how special it would feel to go all the way.
Of course, they would have to qualify first. But Lebanon appears well on its way as they are undefeated in qualifiers so far.
“I’m playing with the Lebanese national team and our aim now is to qualify to the World Cup,” Ali began. “We are undefeated in the qualifiers and have a big chance to make it to the World Cup, which is our goal!
“We have 2 important away games in February against Jordan and Saudi Arabia; winning them will give us a huge push and see us go to the first place in our group, which makes it easier since teams take their points with them to the second round.”
“Winning a trophy for Lebanon is always special! Lebanese people deserve this more than anyone else on this planet,” he added. “We’ve been through a lot and making them happy is all that matters. I will definitely make sure to give it my all and make my Lebanon proud.”
There’s plenty of weight on Mansour’s shoulders on the club front too as he represents one of the biggest teams in his country.
“Playing with Al Riyadi club is a big responsibility and a great step for me since al Riyadi is one of the best teams and contenders in Asia, and definitely in Lebanon,” the guard declared. “We won the championship last year and working to do the same this year.
“Riyadi fans don’t know what it is to lose and this makes it harder on us as players to give it all every time we step on the court and. That’s the beauty of basketball.”
Ali’s career has seen him play in some pretty big games. His contributions helped Lebanon place second in the Arab Nations Basketball Championship in 2015 and they would go on to win it the following year as he was named the tournament’s MVP.
He was on the Lebanese team that failed to qualify for the World Cup in 2017 due to losing games to Japan and Korea but was named one of the five best players of the qualifying rounds. Ali helped Lebanon place first in the King Abdullah Basketball Cup in Jordan in 2020, also playing a part in Al Riyadi placing first in both the Eurasian League and Lebanese Championship last year.
He’s now looking forward to helping his nation qualify for the World Cup. The tournament will be hosted in Japan, Indonesia, and the Philippines next year and will run from August 25 to September 10.