FIBA Asia secretary general Hagop Khajirian, of all people, should be conscious and well-informed of the Islamic Ramadan calendar.
Last January, Hagop was a guest in Manila to formally announce that the Fiba executive committee, after meeting in Kuala Lumpur, has decided to move the 27th Fiba Asia Men’s Championship from Beirut, Lebanon, the original site, to Manila in view of the dangerous political situation on the periphery of Lebanon and the rest of West Asia.
While in Manila, Hagop took the opportunity to inspect the Mall of Asia Arena, the official venue of the 11-day event, and to finalize all the arrangements, specifically the inclusive dates of the event—from Aug. 1 to 11, which was the choice of Hagop himself.
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Working on the guidelines provided by Hagop, the PBA had to drastically change its schedule to give way to Asia’s biggest basketball event in an effort to meet the SBP’s objective to form the strongest lineup possible.
The Philippines is eyeing one of the top three slots in the Fiba Asia championship to qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Spain.
Satisfied that he had fulfilled his mission in Manila, Hagop went back to his hometown Lebanon while the people concerned in Manila started preparing for the grand sporting event we last hosted 40 years ago in 1973.
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Updates on the Fiba Asia have been unheard of since Hagop’s visit to Manila until last Tuesday during an NBA presscon hosted by Hans Sy of the Mall of Asia Arena where the first ever preseason NBA game between the Houston Rockets and the Indiana Pacers will be played.
On that occasion, I happened to share the same table with PBA commissioner Chito Salud, PBA media bureau chief Willie Marcial and Arnel Gonzales, manager of the MOA Arena.
I gathered from their discussion that there had been a request from the Gulf countries to move back the date of the Fiba Asia championship by one week, to ensure that the Ramadan period would be over.
The Ramadan is a period of intense prayer and fasting which lasts for several weeks. I’ve been to many countries in the Middle East during Ramadan and I’ve witnessed those who observe this religious Muslim tradition refrain from eating food and drinking water from sunrise to sunset. Stores in Muslim countries are also closed during the hours of fasting and prayer and opened only in the late afternoon.
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Although the PBA will have to again completely redo its schedule based on the request which may be impossible to turn down because the Gulf countries might pull out of the tournament, the league probably has no choice but to postpone the event by another week, at the very least.
The big problem is the Arena has other commitments after Aug. 11 from which they cannot pull out of.
“If ever, a later sked will conflict with the James Taylor concert,” said Arnel.
“But the venue may only be a minor problem, compared to the other problems we will face if we change the schedule,” said former Fiba Asia (then called ABC) secgen Moying Martelino, the SBP’s adviser/consultant to the 27th Fiba Asia championship.
“We will have to cancel all our bookings—for hotels, land transpo, etc … and the new schedule prepared by the PBA magugulo na naman. The league has scheduled the opening of its third conference two days after the Fiba Asia tournament ends. There will be no room for extensions or postponements, ” explained Moying.
He also pointed out that it was Hagop who recommended the date. Moying said that Hagop, though Lebanese, is Christian and not Muslim, but as Fiba Asia secgen, should be aware of the Ramadan calendar.