Alijevas: I’m not being called to Lithuania NT because of my religion

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In an interesting interview to an Azeri sports website Rolandas Alijevas claimed that he is not a part of the Lithuanian National Team because he is Muslim. Read the entire interview.

Tell us some things about yourself.

My father is an Azeri while my mother is Lithuanian. I was born in Kaunas and have an older brother. Despite being born in Lithuania I am Muslim, like my father. I never visited Azerbaijan as a child. My father was a judo specialist.

I started judo at the age of three and then jumped to gymnastics. After a friend’s suggestion I tried basketball and eventually turned into a professional player. At the same time my brother took upon judo and boxing but was never attracted by basketball. He now lives in London and he has nothing to do with sports.

When was the last time you played for Lithuanian youth NT?

Last time was in 2005 when we wont the U21 World Championship in Argentina. I’ve also played for Lithuanian Students NT with which I’ve won several gold medals. I’ve also taken part in Lithuanian NT training camp, but that’s about it. I’ve never played in an official match for Lithuania NT.

Is there a hope for you to play for Lithuania NT?

You know, I should have been called to the Lithuanian NT this year, but for various reasons I wasn’t called. I don’t know why, maybe the fact that I’m Muslim has got something to do with it. I should be playing for Lithuanian team. Of course, this is just my opinion and could not be the case.

Tell us about the unsuccessful attempt of Azerbaijan to introduce you into their ranks.

Rimas Kurtinaitis called me in 2004 and we talked about the possibility of me joining Azerbaijan NT. I was thinking about it but after Kurtinaitis learned that I had already played for Lithuanian youth NT he stopped calling. But I had great desire to play for Azerbaijan then, it’s my own blood.

If you have an offer now and you overcome all problems regarding the transition, what would your choice be?

Before talking to you, I had a chat with my father about this. We weighted all the pros and cons and it is safe to say that I have decided to play for Azerbaijan NT. But first of all I would like to train and play with Azeri players as I have no experience whatsoever regarding Azerbaijan NT. I can’t say I’m 100% sure but I would definitely think of and maybe play for Azerbaijan NT. In any case I would like to play for my homeland, as Lithuania has excluded me from their ranks and I have a grudge. If I switch to Azerbaijan they will realise whom they have lost.

Have you watched Azerbaijan NT games?

When Rimas Kurtinaitis worked in Azerbaijan, entire Lithuania watched the Azerbaijani team. Judging by those matches, of course, the Azerbaijan NT level was low, by European standards. The guys playing for the NT told the same about the league. But I admit not having seen any Azerbaijan NT matches and this is why I would like to train a bit with the guys and understand what is this team capable of, not just next year but in the long term as well. Although the fact that Azerbaijan beat both Belarus and Romania last season exhibits potential. And if I agree to play for Azerbaijan I hope the team achieves great victories on European stage.

You’ve recently moved to Ukrainian side “Budivelnyk” where interesting possibilities open up for you as they will compete in VTB United League.

I had a lot of offers in the off-season, like the three years long one by Zalgiris. I also had offers from Turkey and Spain. But Budivelnyk has been in contact for me for the past six months. The late Rimas Girskis was my coach and he recommended Budivelnyk as he had coached them in the past. I opted for this team after seeing the persistence of Ukrainians for me. I had others offers, better in financial terms, but I would be coming off the bench whereas in Budivelnyk I will be getting thirty minutes of playing time and I will control the game of my team, just as I like.

VTB League is a chance to play at a higher level. I have played in Euroleague with a French club and I would like to return there. But playing against teams like CSKA, Zalgiris and Khimki is always interesting too. Playing against Zalgiris will of cardinal importance for me and I won’t let it slide.

Source: ExtraTime (interview by T. Tushiev)

Editor’s note: Minutes ago Alijevas has denied ever saying he wanted to play for Azerbaijan NT.