SAMAHANG Basketbol ng Pilipinas’ recent formal announcement that the 27th Fiba Asia Championship will be hosted by the country is welcome news to all those who relish the Philippine team battling against Asia’s best.
After being disappointed in Tokyo last year when a well-prepared presentation was sidestepped by the simple presence of a Lebanese star player, the SBP can now concentrate on being gracious and efficient hosts and on the job of preparing a team to nail one of three Asian slots in the World Championships next year.
The security situation as a result of the Syrian civil war compelled Fiba to move the site of the tournament, once known as the Asian Basketball Confederation (ABC) championship, from Beirut to the next interested country.
And that just happened to be the Philippines. So better late than never, we get to host the biggest basketball bonanza in the region. Holding the tournament here is important to reestablish the Philippines as a knowledgeable and experienced host.
If there is one sport we know inside and out, it’s basketball. We know how to run international tournaments with foreign teams and what players and teams need.
When I covered the 1988 Seoul Olympics basketball games, media folks from all over the world would approach me to say that they enjoyed their stay in the Philippines during the World Championships in 1978.
It’s been a while since we’ve hosted a major international basketball affair, save for the Asian Youth in 1989 and 1991 Southeast Asian Games tournament. The time is right to remind the region and the world that we are capable hosts and basketball people.
The tourism angle is a given. Hosting the tournament for the first time since 1973 will remind the Asian basketball community also that it’s more fun in the Philippines. People will watch the games, even those that will not involve the Philippine team, and treat all guests generously and graciously.
Then there’s the issue of reaffirming that we are not pushovers anymore in the Asian hoops scene. We had our bad years when we couldn’t get the PBA players to participate, and some good ones when the Northern Consolidated and the Smart Gilas teams bannered the squad.
If coach Chot Reyes can get a team that he can work with from the PBA ranks and other leagues and they have enough training and competition time, then the Philippines has a reasonably good chance of making it to the top three slots.
Participating in the world tournament is also important because it would mark our return to this prestigious gathering of basketball elite teams. Realistically, we will never go deep into the world championships if we never participate but that isn’t all that matters.
What’s important is participating to remind all and sundry that the talent and greatness of the Filipino baller is still very much around.
It’s in a different form from that of Carlos Loyzaga and that brilliant team that finished third in the world championships in 1954. The talent is also different from the 1974 team in Puerto Rico that won the ABC here in Manila the year before and had the likes of Robert Jaworski, Bogs Adornado, Mon Fernandez and others.
The Fiba Asia should add more spice to an already full basketball schedule in August.
We should welcome its return with open arms because its success both in terms of playing well and hosting mean a lot to this country.