Fernandez ‘ashamed’ of Gilas’ ‘nightmare’ stint
INCHEON, South Korea—A basketball great has spoken up on Gilas Pilipinas giving the country its worst finish in the Asian Games, saying the squad’s stint here was a “nightmare” and that its coach’s last-ditch ploy to pad points for the quotient system was a “dastardly act” and an “utter disrespect to the game we love.”
Ramon Fernandez, a four-time PBA Most Valuable Player, decried the series of events that led to Gilas’ seventh-place finish here.
“Sad to say but it’s a nightmare,” Fernandez wrote in an e-mail to select sports scribes on Thursday evening. “Honestly, I’m ashamed. I’m frustrated.”
“I pity the players and more importantly, I feel for the passionate basketball fans who were duped by press releases, documentaries and coffee-table book that led us to believe that [national coach Chot Reyes] can bring us to the basketball land of promise,” added the standout of the 1973 Philippine team that won gold in the Asian Basketball Confederation (forerunner of Fiba Asia) Championship and the squad that finished second in the 1990 Asian Games.
Before going into the Asiad, Reyes steered Gilas to a 1-4 record in the Fiba World Cup in Spain, gaining a measure of respect from several quarters after pushing traditional world powers to the hilt.
Although Fernandez credited Reyes for the “moral victories,” he said the team may have stooped too low in a two-point win over Kazakhstan, where Gilas tried to score for Kazakhstan in an effort to drag the game into overtime. The Filipinos needed to win by at least 11 points to barge into the semifinal round.
Reyes defended the ploy, saying “it was the only thing we could do to stay alive.”
Fernandez, however, preferred that the team held on to the victory and kept its head held high.
“Having played for flag and country in two different generations and [with] all the other national players who brought honor and pride to our countrymen, I feel that our sacrifices, blood, sweat and tears were tarnished by one dastardly act,” he said.
Still, the 6-foot-4 beanpole, easily one of the country’s greatest players of all time, believes the future is bright for PH basketball.
“With Mr. [Manny V. Pangilinan] and the [Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas] people and with the help of the PBA, it would be easy for them to fix the mess created by someone,” said Fernandez.
“With the inclusion of our best PBA players and a naturalized player, our goal should be focused on the Asian front,” Fernandez said, echoing Yeng Guiao, himself a former national coach, who said that the Philippines should focus on ruling Asia first.
“If we regain Asian supremacy, we will be on the world stage.”
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