In this piece of Emma Meesseman Week, I will write about the Belgian Cats getting a visit from their country’s Ambassadors last night after their game against the USA Basketball women’s national team in the 2022 FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup qualifiers. Belgium lost, 84-75. For the recap, click here.
As you know, Washington, D.C. is the capital of the United States. As such, D.C. has the embassies of practically every country that the Americans have established relations with. The bulk of the embassies are just west of Dupont Circle on Massachusetts Avenue called “Embassy Row.” Japan and South Korea have embassies here, along with Latvia and Greece among many others.
There are exceptions of course, like America’s closest friends from the 18th Century: France and the Netherlands. The French Embassy is right across the street from Georgetown University Hospital. And the Dutch Embassy is next to the Levine School of Music in the east side of Van Ness. On the west side of Van Ness, you can find Israel’s Embassy. And Canada’s embassy is less than half a mile from Capitol Hill.
(Yeah, I’ve been to most of these embassies thanks to tours, pre-COVID of course.)
So where was I? Oh yes, BELGIUM! (My rambling is getting to me!)
Unlike the other countries I mentioned, the Belgian Embassy is on the first floor of 1430 K Street NW, the same block (but not building) as The Park at 14th Lounge and a couple blocks northeast of The White House.
And yesterday, Jean-Arthur Régibeau, the Belgian Ambassador to the U.S., was in attendance to watch his country’s women’s basketball team play the USA Basketball women’s national team. Despite the loss, the Belgian Cats came back stronger than I anticipated in the fourth quarter. And the crowd, which was visually 60-40 Belgian vs. American, was quick to cheer loudly for a Cats basket, or be quick to quiet down “USA” chants in the closing minutes!
After the game, Ambassador Régibeau met the Cats to congratulate them for their performance.
So happy to meet @TheBelgianCats after this excellent performance. Wishing them best of luck for their next game on Sunday.— Ambassador Jean-Arthur Régibeau (@BEAmbUSA) February 12, 2022
We enjoyed watching top competitors, together with hundreds of enthusiastic supporters. pic.twitter.com/AWawJrnrBx
Belgium is also the home of most of the European Union’s institutions, including the European Commission and Council which are based in Brussels, blocks away from the Belgian federal and Flemish regional government. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that Stavros Lambrindis, the EU’s Ambassador to the U.S., was also in attendance.
One of the perks of being EU Ambassador is that I have not just one, but … 27 teams to cheer for!— Ambassador Stavros Lambrinidis (@EUAmbUS) February 12, 2022
A pleasure to meet @TheBelgianCats tonight after a great game with the U.S., together with my friend @BEAmbUSA.
Good luck for the game with Russia on Sunday! Go Cats!#FIBAWWC pic.twitter.com/nNWdA5mAHs
For the Americans in attendance last night, it was a tune-up game against a world power. Sure, Team USA led by as many as 23 points, in part because their defense consistently double and triple-teamed Meesseman to make her pass the ball and minimize her impact for much of the game. She did score 15 points, grab 10 rebounds and dish 5 assists despite the Americans’ efforts to contain her.
But as I wrote in the recap, Team USA also didn’t play like a seamless unit, especially early on. Mystics guard Ariel Atkins started, scoring only 4 points, but she did get 2 steals and played 27 minutes last night since the Cats committed 17 turnovers from being a bit too pass-happy with their offense.
As for the Belgians in attendance, especially those living in America, this was a rare opportunity for them to see their national team play on the world stage. And more generally, this team has won the hearts of women’s basketball fans worldwide because of its rapid rise since 2017. I’d be lying to you if I said that I find it hard not to support them because of it. But last night, I was still happy to root for Team USA instead, whether this game as a friendly or a gold medal match.
After two games, Belgium is 1-1 in Group D play. The Cats are just one win away from clinching their second straight World Cup berth. Their last game is tomorrow at 3:30 p.m. ET when they play Russia.