As Mali’s women’s basketball team prepares for its second World Cup, an interview with Totti Gandiga.
The Mali national team is preparing to play the second edition of the Women’s Basketball World Cup in its history, which is scheduled to be held from September 22 to October 1 in Australia. Malians replace Nigerian women, who were forced to abdicate For the 2022 World Cup. For RFI, rear Touty Gandega evokes this very situation as well as the ambitions of the Eagles in very strong Group B, particularly the Japanese Vice Olympic Champions and the Australian Vice World Champions.
RFI: Mali is the surprise guest in this World Cup, as they replace Nigeria, which they lost in the World Cup. How do you deal with this somewhat unusual situation?
Totti Gandiga : This post fell on us. We really love it… It’s a crazy chance! Not all players compete in the World Cup. Therefore, at the World Cup we are in a “we come, we have fun, we give everything we need” mode to represent Africa as much as possible. Because, incidentally, Nigeria was the strongest team in Africa. As we replace Nigerians, we tell ourselves that we also have to be up to it. Therefore, there is still a little pressure. But we tell ourselves that this is a great opportunity and that we will give everything.
Were you able to properly prepare for the 2022 World Cup, despite the circumstances?
We have known about the situation since this summer. We organized our first rally on July 22nd in Bamako. And then the girls came to pick on shuffles and shuffles, in particular because of the club’s commitments. […] But that did not stop the group of 10-12 players from training and preparing calmly for Mali with friendly matches.
Mia Tereira is the only player called up to Australia to play in the 2010 World Cup, the last World Cup final in Mali. Is there any tension in the team about such a big competition?
Honestly, I don’t think we realize that yet. At the moment, there is no pressure within the group. But when September 22 approaches and we realize that the World Cup will start, against Japan, we will be a little more nervous. However, I think it would be good pressure. But there, if you’re in the group, you can’t say we’re nervous. Especially since this year, the team is really young. There are four alumni in the group. Otherwise, the other players are “children”.
Your sister Diana participated in the Mali adventure in the 2010 World Cup. Did she share her experience with you?
Yes, she told me it would be a unique experience, and that these are things that you sometimes only experience once in a lifetime. She told me I should play for my money, wet the shirt, while having fun. My sister also played the 2008 Olympics, the World Cup, the African Championship… She did everything with the Mali national team. She knows what she’s talking about.
Mali belongs to a very strong and very homogeneous group that will face Japan (September 22), Australia (23), France (25), Serbia (26) and Canada (27). Reaching the quarter-finals, is it almost impossible or are you confident despite everything?
I wouldn’t sell dreams, because they would be really, really complicated. I discussed it with my former coach at Angers, David Gaultier, who is an assistant coach in the France team. We told ourselves that we are really in the death squad! When necessary, if we were in the other group, the Puerto Rican group [avec la Belgique, la Bosnie, la Chine, la Corée du Sud et les États-Unis, NDLR], why not ? But there, in this group, it’s complicated… Indeed, if we win a match, it’s Alleluia! I cannot lie or pretend. Obviously we’ll give everything and if we can win matches, that’s a lot better. But if we can’t win them, we just have to produce our best basketball and have fun. It will allow us to progress. If we get to the quarter-finals, it will be more than an achievement.
In particular, it will take on the French women they suffered (defeat 66-77) in the World Cup qualifiers in February 2022. Is there something to play against the Blues, in particular?
Yes, when you see what we were able to do in February, with a little prep time. We tell ourselves that we absolutely want to hang them. Now, Les Bleues have had much more prep time than they did in the playoffs. They will be prepared and not make the same mistake twice, I think.
When we go to play against them, we will give everything. The recent confrontation gives us hope. We managed to lose “only” 11 points, while we were close to them at some point in this match in terms of score. So why not repeat the same performance? And by victory at stake, you will be fire!