Basketball: Deng's passport boosts British Olympic hopes

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The Chicago Bulls player Luol Deng will soon be donning a Great Britain vest after the Home Office agreed to issue him a United Kingdom passport. The 21-year-old, who plays forward or guard, was born in Sudan but lived in London for six years from the age of nine.

The main bar to his naturalisation appeared to be that he had spent the past five years playing in the United States but lobbying from British basketball officials, UK Sport and London 2012 has finally paid off.

"Although I've been living in the US for a number of years, London will always be my home," Deng told BBC Sport Online. "It's the city I grew up in and where my family lives today."

The Great Britain coach, Chris Finch, who must create a team able to compete at the London Olympics - was delighted. "With Luol, we get unbelievable talent and an athlete with size," Finch said. "What I've liked most of all when I've seen him is that he has the ability to make those around him better. He plays in the NBA so he's probably used to pressure. But I don't think of him as a saviour - I don't think we need saving - but he's a heck of a piece of a puzzle to have."

Deng represented England at Under-19 level but under special dispensation from the world governing body, Fiba, which agreed to recognise him as a refugee after his family came to Britain to escape civil war in his homeland. He should now be available to play in Britain's European qualifiers next summer.

Comments