Egypt’s women’s basketball team won the Red Bull Half Court World Final 3x3 in Belgrade, Serbia, for the first time. They sealed the victory undefeated, dominating the matches non-stop, beating Japan in the final.
It was not the first time Egypt and Japan faced each other. They met last year in Cairo, also in the finals, which Japan won. But this year Egypt sealed a prestigious victory and became the first African team to win the 3x3 World Championship at the historic fortress of Kalemegdan.
Making one of their rare appearances in the series, Egypt swept through the competition, going undefeated on its way from start to finish. En route, they beat Australia, Italy, Belgium, the UAE and Japan.
Hagar Amer from Egypt was crowned the Fila Female MVP of the tournament and Nikola Mihajlovic from Serbia was crowned the men’s MVP.
Playing for Alexandria Sporting Club (ASC) Amer has become something of an icon after the victory. She is a mother, assistant lecturer and a professional basketball player who has managed to juggle all three and triumph in African and international tournaments.
Amer wrote more history as ASC were crowned champions of the FIBA Africa Champions Cup, which made it the first time in history an Egyptian club wins the cup for women. Amer was also crowned the tournament’s MVP, averaging 15 points and rebounds in six games.
At 6’1 (1.83 m) Amer is tall and powerful and above all very dedicated to basketball. In addition to being a professional basketball player, she works as a lecturer assistant in the Industrial Engineering Department at the Arab Academy for Science, Technology and Maritime Transport.
“Actually, we did not expect to win the last Red Bull tournament. We rather found ourselves in excellent shape as we won one match after another,” Amer said.
“I love 3-on-3 basketball as I feel it is street basketball play with no strict rules as the 5x5. The rhythm is really fast as it depends very much on player skills, moves, counter defence… etc.”
This year was outstanding for Egypt’s 3x3 women’s national team as they secured second place in the FIBA 3x3 Women’s Series Astara Stop 2023 in a highly competitive contest in May.
“Winning 3x3 matches against world champions will definitely pave the way for us to break milestones in 5x5 championships as well. We have become much more confident so that we can compete and win world championships,” added Amer who wishes to see Egypt’s women’s basketball team in the Olympics in 2028 in Los Angeles.
As a mother of five-year-old Amina, Amer, captain of ASC, says that nothing can keep her from playing. In 2019, she suffered an injury that led to surgery which forced her to take a three-year break from basketball. But with persistence and dedication, she decided on a full comeback.
“I spent days in the gym, running, conditioning and improving my individual skills. I am thankful to have the full support of my mother and my husband who believe in me and who push me to unveil my talent,” she added.
3x3 basketball tournaments have thrived in less than 10 years on five continents. The Red Bull Half Court is one of the world’s most globally famous and largest streetball basketball tournament with over 15,000 participants in 2023.
Once considered street basketball, 3-on-3 has rapidly developed into a professional sport with official rules endorsed by the International Basketball Federation (FIBA). 3-on-3 basketball is half the 5-on-5 regular basketball court, measuring 15 by 11 metres. It originated in the US in the 1980s when basketball gained much popularity on the streets. There was one basket and a small area surrounding it. When the game gained popularity in various parts of the world, FIBA decided to trial 3on3 basketball at the 2007 Asian Indoor Games in China. The trial boomed and was very well received among all nations. This made FIBA recognise it as a sport in 2010 at the Summer Youth Olympic Games in Singapore. Since then, 3-on-3 basketball has taken streets and clubs by storm.
The Red Bull Half Court World Final 2023 also featured three other Egyptian stars: Asrar Maged, Neveen Bahaa and Nadine Al-Seleawi who proved their worth with their smart moves.
“It’s a lot faster and needs being able to get shots off quickly,” said Maged, 25, who plays for Egypt and ASC.
Maged started playing basketball at the age of six, following the footsteps of her elder brother. She joined the first team when she was 16 at ASC. She represented Egypt and the club in many international and local tournaments. She won the basketball Egyptian league five times, three times the Super League and for the first time ever the African championship last year in Mozambique.
As a shooting guard, Maged says that 3-on-3 basketball makes the players stand out as they use all the skills they have in less time. “When I joined the Red Bull Tournament, we did not put much pressure on ourselves to win but we started winning. It was a lot of fun and very exciting. It was highly competitive with superstars from Italy and Japan. I am happy we won as it proved that we can win everything else,” she added.
Maged is a professional basketball player who sees that there is much progress in all sports in Egypt. “I am happy that the Egyptian Basketball Federation (EBF) is paying more attention to basketball and our contracts which is really important to our financial and social status.”
The EBF is focused on building a strong foundation that includes young talents and creative minds which can make the Pharaohs a force internationally. “When the EBF adopted a playoff system, it made a huge difference. In addition, the matches are now broadcast on our channels which made the popularity of the game grow and consequently helped the clubs earn more money,” the 25 year old added.
“I believe we need more competitions and more friendly contests to compete abroad. The more we play with highly professional teams, the more we gain experience in the game. At this point, we are hoping we can mark a transformative chapter in the country’s basketball journey,” Maged told Al-Ahram Weekly.
One of the standout Egyptian players who stunned the world recently is Soraya Mohamed. The International Basketball Federation (FIBA) named Mohamed “Cleopatra of basketball”. She emerged as the winner of the Shoot-Out Contest in the Africa Cup qualifier in Madagascar 2018. A few months ago, Mohamed showed off her shooting prowess at the Astara Stop at the hyped debut on the FIBA 3x3 Women’s Series.
“The 3x3 game is booming,” Mohamed said. “Egypt is racing fast to compete. The games are short and its fast pace makes it more fun as more people of all ages and all levels enjoy the game.
“The 3-on-3 style is fast-paced, intelligent, needs quick thinking and is outright exciting,” said Mohamed, 28, who is a professional basketball player and plays for Egypt and Ahly Club. She started basketball when she was eight. She fell in love with the game as soon as she starting recognising her unleashed talents in her first African cup.
At the age of just 15, Mohamed won the best player in Africa. The following year, she also received the best player award in the tournament although she was the youngest player at the time. From that time onwards, she has tried never to fail her club or her country.
As for wearing the hijab, Mohamed says it has never been a burden. “On the contrary, it makes me unique and a standout in the crowd. I am proud that I am an Egyptian Muslim woman who is representing my country well.”
* A version of this article appears in print in the 28 September, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly