Lebanon’s men's basketball team has qualified for the semi-finals of the Fiba Asia Cup after beating China 72-69 on Wednesday as 'The Cedars' continued their stunning run of form.
Their semi-final will be against Jordan on Saturday in Jakarta, Indonesia.
Lebanon, whose top scorer was Wael Arakji with 32 points, had led by 16 points at one point and had to resist a late onslaught by China.
Speaking after the victory, Lebanese player Hayk Gyokchyan described it as a “historic win for Lebanon, for Lebanese basketball, for the people of Lebanon” after beating “one of the best teams in Asia… who have been perennially great”.
“We’re so lucky and blessed to be part of this team,” he said.
Arakji said: “We come from a broken country. We come from a country that’s full of sadness. So, we just want to make our people happy.”
A devastating economic collapse that first became apparent in 2019 has plunged much of Lebanon into poverty, with the local currency losing more than 90 per cent of its value. There are widespread shortages in electricity, water, medicine and other basic supplies.
Lebanese politicians were quick to praise the team, with Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati describing the victory as an “unprecedented achievement in the history of Lebanese sports”.