Iran’s Nikkah Bahrami contemplates retirement and backs Fiba tournament at home

The Iranian basketball captain wants the Fiba Asian Championships to come to Iran and admits that, at 31, the Asian Games might be one of his last tours of international duty.

Mohammed Nikkah Bahrami shown with his club team, Mahram, in a Fiba Asia Champions Cup match against Qatar's Al Rayyan in 2010. AFP Photo / May 30, 2010
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The captain of Iran’s unbeaten basketball team at the Asian Games has called on the sport’s governing body to let his country host the Asian Championship.

Iran have won the Fiba Asian Championship three times since 2007, once each in Japan (2007), China (2009) and the Philippines (2013).

Mohammed Nikkah Bahrami believes it is time for Fiba Asia to look away from the traditional powers in the east of the continent when deciding the 2017 edition.

“Fiba should give the Asian Championships to us for sure,” Nikkah Bahrami, whose side beat seven time Games champions China to reach Wednesday’s semi-final against Kazakhstan, told AFP.

“If you see all the important games, they always give it to China. Olympic qualification is in China. World Cup qualification is in China. The not so important tournaments they give to Korea, Japan, the Philippines,” he added.

“We can do it. We have a very good team. Since 2007 we have won a lot of Asian Championships. We have the facilities.”

The next Asian Championships, which are held every two years, are to be hosted by China next year. They will double up as Olympic qualifiers, with the winners automatically gaining a place in the 2016 Rio Games.

The 2017 Asian Championships are still up for grabs and the winners of that event will qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

Iran suffers from international sanctions over its nuclear programme. While there is no direct link to sports, the country’s isolation in the international monetary system could make it difficult for any federatioin to stage a major championship in Iran, experts said.

Any Iranian bid would face opposition from other powers such as Saudi Arabia.

Nikkah Bahrami believes that Iranian fans should be given the chance to support their heroes at home however.

“We are winning a lot of championships and people see it on TV. I don’t know why we never get to host some international games because a lot of Iranian people would come out to support, they love their basketball.

“Fiba Asia don’t give any important games to Iran. And if you see all of the championships we won, they were all outside our country. Our people want to see it inside.”

He said that basketball was growing rapidly in Iran on the back of the national team’s success.

“Football is of course the No 1 sport in Iran. All countries in the world they love soccer. But basketball is challenging volleyball now as No 2. There are courts everywhere.”

Nikkah Bahrami also revealed that he was considering retiring from the national team because his schedule is so demanding.

The 31-year-old plays for Fujian in the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) and Tehran’s Mahram club once the Chinese season ends.

“I don’t know even if next year I will be playing (for Iran). Maybe I’ll retire from the national team because it’s hard,” Nikkah Bahrami said.

“I haven’t decided yet, but every year there’s pressure. I need rest, it’s tough. We play all season (in China), then we go to Iran and play there.”

The 2014/15 CBA season starts in early November and runs until February and the Iranian Superleague season runs until the end of play-offs in May.

“Then after the club season we have a lot of international friendlies, then this year there was the World Cup (in Spain last month) and the Asian Games straight after where you’re playing eight, nine days in a row,” he added.

“When when we leave Incheon we will start with the (Chinese) league 10 days later. The league is who pays us, so we have to be ready for that. Always.”

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