MANILA, Philippines – Latvia’s Fiba World Cup celebration took place on the streets of Latvian capital Riga at the Freedom Monument.
Thousands of people flooded the largest city in the Baltic states on Monday to welcome back the Latvian men’s basketball team, fresh off an inspiring run at the first World Cup, where the side finished fifth.
The celebration was also attended by the country’s president and other state officials.
“I hope that [win] has a big impact. We have seen a lot of videos of kids at school who instead of watching lessons were watching our matches,” Latvian star Davis Bertans said after their World Cup run.
Davis Bertans and the Latvian National Team hold back tears after returning home from the FIBA World Cup
Thousands of Latvian fans showed up to celebrate the team’s top-5 finish 🙌
— Link Points (@Link Points) September 11, 2023
“I hope we showed them that we take care of our country, play together and are a great team. Whether it’s at school or wherever, whatever they do, it shows that you can achieve great things despite being considered an underdog.”
Latvia, a small country with less than two million inhabitants but a huge passion for basketball, was one of the most fascinating stories during the World Cup.
The Latvians, who were without their best player Kristaps Porzingis, would not even reach the second round of the tournament.
Porzingis, who was traded to the Boston Celtics last June, missed the global showcase due to plantar fasciitis in his right foot but joined his teammates on the trip.
But they defied long odds, beating France, defending champions Spain, Italy and Lithuania to finish in the top five.
In the fifth place classification match against Lithuania, Latvian guard Arturs Zagars even set the record for most assists in one match with 17.
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