CHINESE Taipei boots out mainland Goliath China from the championship round. South Korea humbles two-time third placer Qatar. On the wings of a boisterous crowd inspired by fun and country, the Philippines surges into the finals against Iran.
Welcome to the Fiba Asia universe, where the planets are realigning at the speed of light.
The Chinese and the Iranians, alternating champions in recent years, were expected once more to duel for control of the Fiba Asia galaxy during the tournament’s 27th staging at Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City recently.
Brave new worlds, however, emerged, making orbits tougher to travel. With the international federation planning to add Oceania megastars Australia and New Zealand to the zonals via a revised calendar, expect Fiba Asia’s cosmos to be in total disarray come 2019.
The Fiba (French acronym for International Basketball Federation) plans to move the next World Cup from 2018 to 2019 after the 2014 Spain edition next year, to avoid being gobbled up by football’s own World Cup.
Since qualifying into the 2019 championship would be highly improbable, the Filipinos, by virtue of their runner-up finish to the Iranians this year, would more than relish playing at the Worlds come 2014.
PH, riding on the starship Gilas Pilipinas, with its penchant for long bombs and a gift of speed, will go to Madrid after an absence of 35 years at a world championship.
Victory would have been sweeter had we outsmarted mighty Iran for the gold medal.
But it is always tough chasing history.
Champion last in 1985, PH tried and gallantly failed to nail its sixth Asian title in what could have been a throwback to our glory years, when the tourney was still called the Asian Basketball Confederation championship.
A hopeful, basketball-crazed nation followed the team’s fantastic journey. Gilas PH and its exploits proved more than enough to keep the national psyche almost worry-free for 11 days that went by in a flash.
Even President P-Noy and Veep Jojo Binay sought relief from executive stress, coming to the title game and joining the home crowd and its rollicking chants, banging drums and waving flags.
Gilas gave the Hoopster-in-Chief, his deputy and fans of all stripes nonstop thrill, until Iran’s behemoths led by NBA veteran Hamed Hadadi breathed flesh and blood to a truism.
In basketball, the good big men will always beat the good little men.
Pacing the sidelines or gesturing with displeasure over dubious oncourt whistles, Gilas coach Chot Reyes at times buried his head in his hands.
With his slotman Marcus Douthit in street clothes due to injury, Reyes kept on wheeling and dealing with alternate and makeshift centers to no avail.
Into the highlands of his mind Reyes went, perhaps imploring the basketball gods to bring him men to match Iran’s mountains.
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My piece last week about the lack of basic equipment at the Philippine Sports Commission training center in Baguio City drew a curious response from one of my sources at the Philippine Olympic Committee.
The official at the POC’s twin agency said the ignored request for a leg press, a squat rack, hurdles for women and more weights while elite and national pool tracksters train for the Southeast Asian Games “is par for the course.”
“I know of an NSA (national sports association) that requested basic equipment for their (sic) sport that took eight years to arrive,” the source added. “So much wasted Pinoy talent because of (a) government… which makes lack of money their (sic) lame excuse.”