By Aris Barkas/ firstname.lastname@example.org
Greece was considered from the start one of the front runners to get one of the wildcards for the upcoming FIBA World Cup, Greek federation’s president Giorgos Vasilakopoulos on many occasions repeated that “based on sports criteria, we deserve it”, however despite being “cautiously optimistic” the Greek side doesn’t considered yet that a wildcard is “locked” for the country. On the contrary, there are still many doubts about the final decision of FIBA on the first weekend of February, specially if money proves to be a big factor.
Despite the reports from Italy about the Greek federation already giving more than 1 million euros to FIBA in order to secure the wildcard, the situation is quite different. At this point the Greek federation has almost secured the 500.000 USD needed as a guarantee for the wildcard. Despite a sponsorship deal with one of the biggest banks in Greece, Eurobank, the federation, like all Greek sports federation, is almost absolutely depended on government funding in order to function. Due to the financial situation in Greece, a part from the 2013 funding is not given yet and a total of 2,5 million euros is expected to be given for 2014. That’s 50% less than last year and almost 80% less than three years ago.
Still 2,5 million seems like a lot of money, but it isn’t, considering the operating expenses of the federation and also the fact that Greece will organize this summer the U20 European championship for men. However the organization of this competition is one of the weapons which are used in the FIBA World Cup wildcard hunt, as also is Greece’s FIBA Ranking (the best for a team that hasn’t secured a place in the World Cup), basketball tradition and also the fact that never in the past the team needed a wild card. Add to that the already signed television contract for the World Cup coverage in Greece and you have the total picture.
Οnly the wildcards of Brazil and China are considered a lock because of their vast markets, and despite the fact that even Italian federation president Giovanni Petrucci said that the Italian hopes are really small, Russia, Turkey, Italy and Canada are considered as competition for two open spots.