Olympic qualifier: We are the home team | Inquirer Sports
One Game At A Time

Olympic qualifier: We are the home team

/ 02:53 AM June 27, 2016

Gilas Pilipinas after its win over Iran. Photo by Tristan Tamayo/INQUIRER.net

Gilas Pilipinas after its win over Iran. Photo by Tristan Tamayo/INQUIRER.net

WE ALL know that the Fiba Olympic Qualifier the Philippines will host next week at Mall of Asia Arena is not going to be a walk in the park but what’s to stop us from giving everything we’ve got to support the home team?

Sure, France will have Tony Parker and New Zealand will have tall and talented shooters. And if we do manage to get into the next round Turkey and Canada, two elite basketball teams, are there waiting.

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Keep in mind that only one team will make it to the Rio Olympics, joining two other teams from two similar qualifying tournaments in Turin and Serbia.

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This is not the Fiba Asia tournament where the Philippines has ample time early in the tournament to develop a rhythm and chemistry before it gets into the quarterfinals or semifinals.  Gilas will have to come out firing and going all out in its first game against France on July 5 and in the next day against the Kiwis.

Without question, it would have been easier to get into the Olympics anew by winning the last Fiba Asia. It was just our tough luck that Asia was limited to one qualifier from that tournament when there used to be two. China reemerged as a power in the region, incubating a few good men while the rest of the field took over the podium positions. But that’s a thing of the past and the Philippines will have to play with the cards it will be currently dealt with.

Basketball is the unquestioned national sport and it is only fitting that wholehearted nationwide support be given to Gilas, regardless of the formidable odds. These are no different from the odds that faced the team in the 2014 World Cup. The team took on the challenge and ruffled the feathers of the fancied teams which had taller, heftier and, arguably, more experienced players.

There are different ways of expressing support. Watching the games at MoA Arena is the most obvious and braving the horrendous city traffic will be a contribution in itself.

Following the games on TV and other platforms together as families, neighbors or friends is another way. The point is that the country should come collectively to render support, regardless of the quality of the opposition or the results of the initial outing.

Gone are the days when the Philippines could simply dominate the Asian region with its brand of basketball. Lou Antolihao’s engaging historical-sociological analysis, entitled “Playing with the Big Boys,” suggests that Filipinos learned the basketball basics from the American colonizers but incorporated moves and methods that were their very own. While the country was already mastering the game, the rest of Asia was still learning how to play hoops.

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It’s not the case anymore: The rest of Asia and the world have improved hoops-wise since the country won third place in the 1954 World Championships in Rio de Janeiro. Skill and speed are no longer sufficient to win. So much more preparation and exposure has to be undertaken to fully restore the Philippines to its premier position in Asian and world hoops.

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Let’s start by helping along.  Bring a flag, a banner and a heart full of nationalistic cheer.  Don’t forget we’re the home team and we’re entitled to a few advantages like having a loud crowd behind the team.

TAGS: FIBA, France, Gilas Pilipinas, Manila, Olympic Qualifying Tournament, Qualifiers, Tony Parker

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