Six Olympiacos players have announced that they will not compete in the upcoming FIBA World Cup qualifiers.

Greece’s Vangelis Mantzaris, Kostas Papanikolaou, Ioannis Papapetrou, Giorgos Printezis, Serbia’s Nikola Milutinov and Latvia’s Janis Strelnieks have declared themselves unavailable with Greece especially struggling with NBAers Giannis Antetokounmpo and Georgios Papagiannis not playing as well.

The full statement from the six players was released as follows:

Since our childhood, we have always responded to any call – up of our National Teams, staying for weeks away from our families, paying no attention to our fatigue and ignoring the risk of injury. In fact, we have suffered several injuries and played through them, whenever we have been asked for. It is known that we have done this out of love, respect, and dedication and this is the reason we have never complained about it.

However, in view of the changes that have been occurred by the new world calendar, we are in the unpleasant position to announce our decision to not participate in the squads of our National Teams for the FIBA Word Cup 2019 qualifiers.
It may be understood that, at this stage, it is practically impossible and unprofessional to be absent for the forthcoming matches of our team in the Euroleague, whereas most of us have already missed the biggest part of the pre-season training of the team due to our participation in the Eurobasket 2017.

We hope that the situation will soon return to normal so that we will be able to help again the efforts of our National Teams.

Giorgos Printezis
Vaggelis Mantzaris
Nikola Milutinov
Kostas Papanikolaou
Ioannis Papapetrou
Janis Strelnieks

Greece will open their World Cup qualifying campaign on the road against Great Britain with new GB coach Tony Garbelotto expected to name the same squad that competed at the last Eurobasket.

Latvia begin their qualifying stage away to Turkey, while Serbia start at home to Austria.