By Will Koulouris
MELBOURNE, July 16 (Xinhua) -- The owner of the National Basketball League (NBL) in Australia, Larry Kestelman said that the link between Australia and China is boosted by their shared love of basketball.
Kestelman spoke to Xinhua exclusively immediately after the match between the Chinese National "Blue" team, coached by Du Feng, and Australian NBL team Melbourne United, and said that games like the one played on Sunday are important to developing strong relations between the two nations.
"It's part of our strategy to work closely with the countries in our region, China being the strongest along with Australia, it's a very important partnership," Kestelman said.
As the owner of the NBL, Kestelman is in regular contact with China, and just a few weeks ago representatives from his league travelled to Beijing to meet with their counterparts at the CBA.
"We have been having talks with Yao Ming and his team for the last two and a half years, so it is progressing well." Kestelman said.
The ties that bind both China and Australia across all aspects, are particularly able to be better strengthened through sport, according to Kestelman, who believes that basketball has a major role to play in bringing both countries even closer together - while also helping both nations improve their performance in the game.
"We love this sport, Australia is very good at it, China is getting a lot better. As we saw today, the exposure for China to play games with international teams is very important. The CBA is a strong, strong league, but they need more games at the international level." Kestelman said.
But, it is not just about the teams, players, or even leagues, Kestelman said, with the fans of the sport from China and Australia now being able to come together - through games like the one played in Melbourne.
"It's amazing. We have here probably more Chinese fans than we did Australians. So these games are fantastic to bring out new crowds in Australia," the NBL owner said.
"The Chinese population in Australia is growing every day, so for them, bringing China to Australia is great."
Back in 2015, Kestelman took over what was then a struggling league for the meagre sum of 7 million Australian dollars (5.48 U.S. million), and in just two short years has transformed it into a success through his shrewd and astute leadership ability, and credits part of that success on connecting with Asia.
"Well the quality of the play, and the actual players we have here has increased tremendously," Kestelman said.
"We have started exposing the league to the Asian sector. This game - along with all of our season - is streamed live back into China. Through Sina and Alibaba, it is exposing the game."
The experienced owner also said that the game in China is set for even more greatness under the leadership of Yao, with the CBA beginning to look towards an even greater commercialisation of the league - which will enhance the Chinese brand of basketball around the world - and shared his insight into how he believes Chinese basketball can prosper.
"The CBA does very, very well. Their sport a lot of it is around TV rights - and I have no doubt CBA will do a great job with CCTV - but I think they can actually look at not just ourselves, but what the NBA and others do, and how they handle corporate hospitality, and the game day presentation," Kestelman said.
"We are very open to working together with the CBA to share experiences and how to make the game day a lot better," he added.
"It's a product of entertainment, that is what is so good about basketball. Two hours indoors, a lot of fun, the music, that is what it is all about."