South Korea was not among the powerhouse teams represented in yesterday’s press conference of the 27th Fiba Asia Championship at Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay.
Many people are not aware perhaps that the Koreans are already here in Manila. Nobody saw them arrive. They have not made their presence felt.
The Koreans were supposed to fly into town around the same time the mighty Chinese and Iranian teams did—between 11 p.m. of Sunday and the wee hours of Monday.
The arrival of the Chinese and the Iranians was shown on TV 5.
There were reports that the Koreans deliberately kept their arrival secret to avoid any kind of pre-tournament publicity. One report said the Korean Embassy in Manila had made arrangements for the team to pass through a different exit at the airport.
“Maybe they are hiding an 8-foot behemoth,” said an official of another team.
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From the airport, the Koreans were whisked to Makati Shangri-La where they were temporarily booked. They later moved to nearby Dusit Thani hotel where all the teams would be housed for the duration of the tournament.
“That’s how serious and determined the participating teams, especially the contenders, are in this tournament,” said a Filipino liaison officer. “Their workouts are sacred. Even those who can’t have a sip of water during workouts because of Ramadan play seriously during practice sessions.
“As a matter of fact, some of the teams from Muslim countries have brought along an imam (priest) so that they won’t neglect their religious obligations during Ramadan. Perhaps the imam is also there to help them pray for success in this tournament.”
The liaison officer said this is probably one reason why the prayer hall at the Dusit is fully booked until Aug. 8, the end of Ramadan.
Because these squads are very focused on the tournament, the officer had told me not to expect their coaches in yesterday’s press conference.
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Much to my surprise—and I don’t know who made it possible—all the coaches of the other top teams were there. China, Iran, Jordan and Kazakhstan were represented.
They were joined by Gilas Pilipinas coach Chot Reyes.
Teams have their last chance to change players in today’s managers’ meeting.
No one among the coaches present at the press conference yesterday expressed any intention to change players, though.