Since 1958 the international basketball youth community has been meeting in Mannheim in more or less regular intervals of two years. The reason: On Hans-Joachim Babies initiative the basketball youth tournament was hold in Mannheim from December 4th till with 8 teams participating. But before another “big man” of German’s basketball history was able to assure the proper name for this sophisticated youth tournament. The former national basketball coach and DBB – honorary member, Hermann “Pascha” Niebuhr, asked for permission of Dr. Albert Schweitzer to name the tournament after the famous missionary and doctor. Probably not knowing the tournament, arising from a spontanous idea, is goint to mature with 16 teams as the biggest youth tournament worldwide.
The athletic meeting has been taking place in Mannheim every two years, apart from few exceptions. After the first two editions in 1958 and in 1960 there was a larger break till 1966. And in 1991 the youth tournament had to be cancelled to the prevailling Gulf war. The original planning to repeat the contest in 1992 was rejected after through consideration since the organizer wanted to stick to the used rhythm. That one was broken in 1994 when the tournament waived the traditional break. With that the organizers adapted themselves to the calender of the basketball world federation FIBA.
In the meantime the Albert Schweitzer Tournament developed to one of the biggest and best basketball tournament for juniors (U18) worldwide. For years there has been a waiting list for nations who hope to receive an invitation under consideration. The organizational performances are getting bigger and more exemplary furnished by the German Basketball Federation (Deutscher Basketball Bund), and the US-Army together with the city of Mannheim to correspond to the tournament claims and demands. Sponsors are of growing importance who make such a tournament possible.
The 25th Albert Schweitzer Tournament starts in Mannheim on April 3rd in 2010, 16 outstanding junior teams from all over the world are goint to meet up. Still one of the favorites for the tournament title are – even if they did not win the tournament for more than a decade – the US Americans. With ten victories at the Albert Schweitzer Tournament the US team is the unchallenged record holder – to the great delight of the numerous American spectators, mostly soldiers and their relatives.
In 1988 Spain thwarted the tournament victory for the US team, in 2000 the Yugoslavs, in 2002 the Greeks, in 2004 the Turks, 2006 the French and 2008 the Greeks again. The Americans couldn’t anew continue with their serie of victories (in 1985, 1987, 1993, 1994, and in 1996) and hope for a revenge in 2010.
Kay Blümel, national basketball coach, hopes the German Juniors are fit to hold a candle to the top teams. Even the two 3rd places at the tournament premiere in 1958, and than in 1983, such as the 4th places in 1977, 1981, and in 1987 are high standards. Only when the bar are raised, German’s next generation is able to be internationally successful. At this year’s AST the German national team is bearing on a single-digit position, the last time the team reserved the 7th place in 2004, the 8th place in 2006 and the 9th place in 2008. The German U17 with head coach Frank Menz team will play in Mannheim not for a position but for gaining very important experiences on their way to the U17 World Championship in front of their home crowd in Hamburg (2nd to 11th July 2010).
The German Juniors are until now missing in the list of winners. Right after the ten times tournament winner the USA, Italy is the second nation within the ranking: in 1966, 1969, and 1983 the Italian won the contest. Yugoslavs has also won three times in Mannheim: in 1971, 1979, and in 2000. The juniors from Belgium were also successful two times – during the beginning years in 1958, and in 1960. Greece also won two times, 2002 and 2008. Poland won the the tournament in 1967. The Spaniards revised their image as the “tragic nation” with winning the contets in 1998. Before they have been losing 4 final games since 1977, the last time against the US team in 1994. In 2004 the Turks triumphed followed by the French in 2006 and the Greeks in 2008.