A Go-getter for Gilas
The Gilas national basketball team has been reinserted into the Philippine Asian Games contingent, a decision reached due mainly to a fan who happens to be man Friday to the current Malacañang tenant.
That Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, President Duterte’s special assistant, played a key role in persuading local basketball bosses to reconsider Gilas’ withdrawal marks a new twist to an account that has zigged and zagged for days.
Before Go, Digong’s trusted personal aide since his mayoral days in Davao City, came to negotiate, it was reported that the noise from a vast coalition of cranky fans caused the change of heart.
The diehards lit the fireworks because they dreaded a common thought: that the team deemed not competitive by the local basketball’s governing body wont be playing in the Asiad only for the second time in 67 years.
It was also said that Philippine Basketball Association team owners made an about-face from the past.
This time around, they willingly offered players to beef up the nationals, who lost 10 players due to suspensions that Fiba meted out after a melee with their Australian counterparts during a World Cup qualifier last month.
In any case, now that it is back in business after the intervention by Go, with an obvious Palace push to avoid riling a nation whose obsession is basketball, Gilas moves on to a broader tableau.
The national cage team is a four-time Asiad gold medal winner with a most recent podium finish of bronze in 1998. Gilas will have to strive hard to stand out against the current regional super powers led by South Korea, Iran and China.
It placed seventh in a 16-team field in Inchon in 2014.
But no doubt Gilas will repeat like in previous Asiads as the most heralded component of a delegation of 273 athletes and 75 officials funded for P75 million to the 18th edition of the Games in the Indonesian cities of Jakarta and Palembang beginning Aug. 18.
Top heavy with athletes in team and non-Olympic sports rather than in medal-rich individual disciplines, the Philippines will compete with 45 other countries in 35 sports for 15 days.
The basketball, volleyball, softball, baseball, traditional dragon boat and sepak tekraw teams are populated by almost 50 percent of the total athletes.
That leaves the rest to compete individually for medals to surpass our dismal harvest of a lone gold, three silvers and 11 bronzes for 22nd place out of 37 countries four years ago.
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