The International Basketball Federation (FIBA) announced in September its plam to continue with European championships qualifying matches in a closed "bubble" environment, similar to that used by the National Basketball Associaton (NBA) in North America. The Estonian Basketball Association in turn applied to host group B matches in Estonia.
Estonia belongs to the same group as Russia, Italy and North Macedonia. As of the current schedule, the Estonian men's national basketball team was set to host two matches in Estonia in November - against Russia on November 27 and North Macedonia three days after that. This will give Estonia home field advantage in the qualification process, ERR's sports portal reports.
Keio Kuhi, secretary general of the association, said: "If we did not apply to host, we would lose our scheduled home court advantage. It is very important for the national team to hold these matches in Estonia."
Kuhi compared hosting a "bubble" environment with organizing the EuroBasket final tournament. "The host country must ensure organization of high-level matches, supplemented by special conditions and measures. A large emphasis will be set on player testing and security. For example, all teams and staff must stay at an exclusively booked hotel," Kuhi said.
FIBA will confirm the centers for qualifying matches on Thursday, October 8. The plan is to have four to eight teams in one city, for them to be able to play all their remaining qualifying matches at once.
Estonia currently sits second in group B with one win and one loss.
What is a "bubble"?
The "bubble" comes from the final stage and play-offs in the 2020 NBA season, where twenty-two teams were invited to an isolation zone hosted by Disney World Florida.
The "bubble" sees extensive coronavirus alleviation measures being put into place with daily testing and secure entry to the isolation zone ensured.
The NBA Finals are currently underway, with a maximum of four games remaining. The "bubble" has proven to be extremely effective at preventing the spread of COVID-19. Leading up to the resumption of play on July 30, there were two consecutive weeks where zero players testing positive for COVID-19.
This streak was continued after play resumed, with five consecutive weeks of zero players testing positive for COVID-19 as of August 19. Close friends and family of players and coaches began to be admitted to the "bubble" from August 31.
Meanwhile the concurrent NFL regular season in the U.S. has seen an outbreak among Tennessee Titans players going into week four, and leading to the postponement of their game last Sunday with the Pittsburgh Steelers, and the same happening with to the Kansas City Chiefs and New England Patriots, after players from both teams tested COVID-19-positive.
Editor: Kristjan Kallaste