GENEVA (FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament for Women) - FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament for Women (OQTW) contenders Mali are struggling to put a preparation programme in place with less than two weeks before the start of the tournament as most players remain stranded in the country's capital of Bamako, hoping to get visas to enter France, where they planned a training camp.
The team has, however, been granted visas to Turkey.
If they do not get visas to enter the French territory, Mali's national team will fly directly to Turkey and hold their preparations there before the OQTW.
The event tips off on 25 June in the Turkish capital of Ankara. The 2011 Afrobasket bronze medallists have only four players on European soil, while the remainder are expected to fly to France over the weekend.
Mali will go up against France and Canada in Group D of the Preliminary Round of the OQTW where five places for the 2012 London Olympic Basketball Tournament are up for grabs.
Mali's head coach, Geneva-based Frenchman Michel Perrin, warned his team’s expectations are affected as he cannot start a training camp without them.
“Most of my players cannot leave the country without a visa to France,” he told fiba.com.
“I appreciate it is a group of 22 to 25 personnel, but the Embassy of France [in Bamako] should recognise that they are coming to take part in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament preparations.
“As a coach it is very difficult to see time running out and we have not an appropriate preparation.
“Of course our expectations are not as high as our opponents France and Canada,” Perrin went on.
Technically Mali can still have a week's worth of preparations if the team arrives in South of France on Saturday, June 16 as Perrin hopes.
“The federation made a big effort to prepare the team on time. We have accommodation and warm-up games arranged, but the team remains in Mali,” he said.
Perrin was confirmed as Mali's head coach at the start of the year. He had coached Cameroon during the qualification phase for last year’s Afrobasket.
Perrin took over after Mali's Basketball Federation decided not to extend Herve Coudray’s contract.
“It is frustrating for me as a coach, but I have the moral obligation to remain with the team,” Perrin said.
Asked to describe Mali's national team playing style and the group of players he is hoping to work with in the upcoming weeks, Perrin said: “They are a fantastic and talented group of players as I could see in Bamako early this year.
“But not getting visas on time is such a big blow to our expectations.”
He went on: “Africans generally have big heart for their own countries, it does not matter what adversities they face. But often they are denied (the chance) to show how good they are."
As Canada and France are at an advanced stage of their preparations, Mali looks to gather its squad, and Perrin is monitoring their opponents’ preparation games.